The Real Housewives is the crown jewel of the reality TV world. Having managed to spin one stand-alone show into a franchise of nine, all while drawing in bigger and bigger audiences each year and keeping the drama turned the f*** up, it’s the poster child for Bravo. And while we’re all guilty of binging on hours and hours of Housewives destination drama each weekend, there are still probably a few things you don’t know about the franchise that rivals the Kardashians (like that more than one housewife has an X-rated background, or what exactly is in those contracts that they all sign). So we’ve rounded up 15 of our favorite shocking Real Housewives secrets for you—read on to learn some seriously juicy gossip!
15 The OG
Way, way back in 2006 when Lance Bass was first coming out, "Bad Day" was topping Billboard charts and Facebook was finally open to everyone (even those of us without a college e-mail address) The Real Housewives of Orange County premiered on Bravo. The OG Housewives show followed the glitzy and glamorous lives of five women (Kimberly Bryant, Jo De La Rosa, Vicki Gunvalson, Jeana Keough and Lauri Waring) who lived in the gated communities of Orange County, CA. And that was going to be it. Real Housewives wasn’t actually conceived as a franchise. Instead, it was envisioned as a stand-alone show for the network, and given an entirely different name: Behind the Gates. We’re glad they changed their plan (and changed the name), because Housewives is one of the best places to get our meaningless drama fix!
The Real Housewives of New York was the second installment of the housewives franchise, but it too was pitched as its own show. ROHNY was originally titled Manhattan Moms, and was set to follow the housewives as they battled to get their prodigy a place (and a name) in Manhattan’s top private schools. It wasn’t until enough material for a few episodes had been shot, and the producers sat down to review it, that they realized how closely it aligned with the storylines and personalities they already had with RHOC. So they threw in Bethany Frankel to add a little more spice, and a second Housewives city was born! Surprisingly enough, they didn’t tell the housewives right away that the show’s content and title had been changed—instead they filmed for a few more weeks and edited the first episode before revealing the change in plans.
13 An ensemble show
It seems that keeping the fact that their stars are filming a Housewives show in their back pocket isn’t a new trick for the producers. When The Real Housewives of Potomac began shooting in 2016, the show was simply referred to as “Potomac Ensemble.” In an interview, Robyn Dixon confirmed that none of the cast members knew what the show was actually going to be until a conference call that took place two months before the show aired where producers congratulated the gang on being affirmed by Bravo as the newest group of housewives. She said that although everyone knew that their show vaguely followed the pre-existing Housewives formula, they were only given a working title (perhaps in part to keep unwanted public attention away while the crew was trying to shoot “real life”).
12 The inspiration
But where did the inspiration for a “real housewives” based reality show even come from? Only the most popular prime-time drama of the early '00s, Desperate Housewives. In its prime, Desperate Housewives was drawing in between 20 and 30 million viewers each week, which is not a number to shake your head at. The landmark show inspired Bravo producers to create an even more realistic version of the show (let’s be honest—in all reality, Real Housewives is probably only a little less scripted than Desperate Housewives was). Gretchen Rossi of the OC gang and Sonja Morgan of the NYC gang both have acknowledged the drama’s heavy influence on their own show, and have attributed their career’s existence to this forerunner. So it seems to us that the Desperate Housewives creators show should be getting a little cut of the Real Housewives’ paychecks each season!
11 The paydays
Now that Housewives has blossomed into a full blown empire—with nine destinations and counting—the women are primed to make a pretty penny. In exchange for allowing cameras to follow them around for parts of the year, first time cast members can reportedly expect to earn between $40,000 and $60,000 a season. Seasoned members like Ramona Singer get even heftier paychecks, netting a cool $500,000 a season. Even crazier, some of the show’s biggest stars, like Bethany Frankel are pulling in closer to $1 million a season—and that’s before side hustles and endorsement deals! Which is a far cry from what those original housewives were making back in 2006 (a measly $7,000 each for those first couple of seasons). It seems the more drama you rile up, the more money you can expect to follow.
10 And the one who paid
We’re not gonna lie—it seems like a career as a real housewife is the way to go if you want to earn lots of dough while simply living your best life (yacht excursions, extravagant parties, designer shopping sprees and luxurious vacations included). Basically if you want to earn the most while doing the least, be a housewife. Unless, apparently, you’re Slade Smiley. Then you’ll pay for the chance to be on the show. The former fiancé of OG housewife Jo de la Rosa and the current fiancé of former OC housewife Gretchen Rossi, Slade Smiley paid $2,500 at a charity auction for the chance to be on a reality show (which was then unnamed and in the early stages of development). Slade’s charitable contribution not only landed him a role in the first few seasons, but also ensured that his then-fiancé would have a place in the gang as well.
9 A no-sue zone
If we’re all honest, it’s really the drama of Real Housewives that keeps us coming back week after week, season after season. Sure, the glitz and the glam and the over-the-top lifestyles are fun to watch, but it’s the fighting and the backstabbing and the general ridiculousness that keeps us glued to our TVs each week. And some of it is legitimately insane. Have you ever wondered how some of the fights haven’t made it all the way to the courtroom? Especially after some of those reunion shows? Several of the housewives would have plenty of reason to file a slander/defamation case against their co-stars. Well, it turns out that there is a clause in every Housewife’s contract stating that they can’t sue a co-star. Something about it being bad for ratings.
8 The contracts
It turns out that a no-sue clause isn’t the only crazy part of the Housewives contract. Each cast member signs the same contract which has a whole slew of crazy conditions—like that they won’t run for public office for 12 months after their last scene is shot, and that appearances must be maintained according to the discretion of producers (this includes hair, makeup, clothing and accessories and weight). The housewives also sign away their right to appear how they wish thanks to a contract clause that states that producers have the right to edit, delete, dub and fictionalize all material shot for the show. If any of the contract conditions are breached, the stars can be slapped with a minimum $50,000 fine (which only goes up if behind-the-scenes secrets are disclosed!).
7 The mob connection
Ever since The Real Housewives of New Jersey premiered in 2009, rumors have swirled that some of the cast members may have mob ties—specifically the members of the Manzo family. Ever cautious of their image, Caroline and Dina have always denied that any such connection exists. But when their father-in-law’s 1983 death finally came up on a reunion special of the show, suspicions were raised even more. It turns out that Tiny Manzo was brutally murdered in what was described by an undercover police officer as a “mob-style execution.” To this day, Caroline and Dina refuse to give any credibility to the mafia talk, and stands by the fact that his death was a mystery. Now, we’re not out here to call them liars, just to say that this all looks veeery interesting.
6 The hottest housewives
With nine Real Housewives locations (Orange County, NYC, Atlanta, New Jersey, D.C., Beverly Hills, Miami, Potomac and Dallas), the competition for earning the highest ratings and drawing in the biggest audiences is real. But there is one destination that has pulled ahead as the clear winner: Atlanta. The housewives here have been deemed the hottest and the most fun to watch with 1.5 million weekly viewers throughout the entire first season and numbers climbing for each successive season. Which makes it not only the most watched Housewives show, but also the most watched show on Bravo. And it’s not just the show that brings in high ratings, but all of the Atlanta spinoffs have performed above average as well. So if becoming a housewife sounds appealing to you, you might consider a move to Atlanta.
5 The X-rated housewife
Scandal, scandal, scandal! It’s no secret that the Housewives have some storied pasts (like the affair Kim Zoliack Bierman had with a 49-year-old police officer when she was only 17), but there’s one Housewife who’s past is the most sordid. Tiffany Hendra, of the Dallas edition, was a porn star in her past life. Hendra starred in a number of adult films under her maiden name before meeting her now husband, Aaron Hendra. After the two became an item, she permanently retired from the industry and moved back to Dallas with her new spouse to join the Housewives cast. Tiffany has been very open about her previous career, but refuses to allow it to define her, saying that “the term porn star is a label I don’t take on.”
4 And the Playboy housewife
Another housewife who has bared it all? Faye Resnick, of Beverly Hills fame. Here’s the whole story: Resnick was best friends with Nicole Brown Simpson, and essentially rose to fame after the latter’s death. She was very open about her belief that O.J. did it, and even went so far as to write a widely-hated book about her friend (including an allegation that the two had a one night stand). As she became more and more of a household name, she was sought out by Playboy to pose for the cover of their March 1997 issue. Which she did. She also appeared fully nude in a spread for the same issue. We all know how Camille Grammer (who was also a former softcore porn star) feels about Resnick’s Playboy decision, but the reality star also faced a huge backlash over her decision back in 1997 (it seems many people felt that using the fame that came from your friend’s murder in this way wasn’t the best choice).
3 The other murder story
Faye Resnick isn’t the only one who was able to spin a murder into something more. NYC’s Carole Radziwill was a journalist in her pre-Housewives days, and she met her husband, Anthony Radziwill (who was Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis’ nephew) while she was working in TV news. The two were both tasked with covering a gruesome murder, two brothers who killed both of their parents in Beverly Hills. Somewhere along the way, they found love and were married in East Hampton, New York in 1994. They stayed together in marital bliss until Anthony lost his battle with cancer in 1999. While their meet-cute wasn’t typical (or really all that cheery), we have to say that it was a better post-murder decision that Resnick’s.
2 The royal affair
To date, The Real Housewives has only ever had one cast member with an official title: Countess LuAnn de Lesseps of NYC fame. Several years ago, after 16 years of marriage, LuAnn and Count Lesseps got a divorce after rumors of an alleged affair began to swirl. The Count apparently broke news of his infidelity to his wife via an e-mail (classy!). And after a little digging, it turned out that his new woman had a slightly higher title—she was a real-life princess. Princess Kemeria Abajobir Abajifar is the daughter of King Abajifar, the last ruler of a kingdom in the Gibe region of Ethiopia. The two met in Geneva while LuAnn was in NYC with the couple’s children, and once news broke, the Count and Countess quietly separated. Their finalized divorce means that Housewives is back in the market for a cast member with an official title.
1 The fakest housewives
If you are a Housewives addict, you’ve probably already come to terms with the fact that not everything on the show is really “real.” There have been allegations that marriages and divorces, feuds and fights, projects and careers have all been staged in the name of ratings. But one thing you probably just assumed was actually real is that the housewives lived where their show is located. But even that detail isn’t true! At least not for the Beverly Hills women. Most of the women who have appeared on the show don’t actually call Beverly Hills home. Adrienne and Lisa live in an ultra-exclusive gated community in the Hollywood Hills called Beverly Park. Kyle and Taylor live in Bel Air. Camille Grammer lived in Malibu and Brandy called Encino home. Which means the producers were playing fast and loose with the Beverly Hills moniker.
sources: glamour.com, bustle.com, fame10.com