Washington Area Women's Foundation

The Not-So-Real Housewives of Places That Are Close to DC + 5 Things to Remember Next Time You're on a Reality Show

RHoDCastPhotoAfter months of rampant, party-crashing, camera crew-spotting speculation, we found out last week who will be representing the metro area on Bravo’s “Real Housewives of D.C.”  The Washington Post stated the obvious right away, pointing out that the participants are not exactly “real” representatives of the D.C. region: “Four out of five are white, all are affluent, and most live in the ‘burbs,” according to the Post’s The Reliable Source.

I suppose it would have been expecting too much of Bravo to ask that they keep it real while casting their reality show.  As you’ve read on this very blog before, we live in an area that is as economically diverse as it is ethnically diverse. There are women here who are exceedingly wealthy and others for whom every bill, meal and rent check is a struggle.  In the District, 54 percent of the population is black, and nearly 10 percent is Hispanic, according to the U.S. Census.

And while, perhaps, the show was conceived as a peek into the lives of the super rich and influential, the level of conspicuous consumption portrayed on previous seasons is both insulting – particularly in cities where the economic gap is wide – and bordering on irresponsible.  Besides, given the number of families on the “Real Housewives” series that have faced eviction, foreclosure and bankruptcy, this illusion is far more fantasy than reality.

Just as troubling as the lack of ethnic representation and fiscal savvy on the show is the fact that, according to preliminary reports, the casting does not reflect the character of our region, either.  The New York Times summed up the apparent theme of the show with this headline: “Air-Kisses and Sniping?  That’s Politics on the Real Housewives of DC.”

Since I moved to Washington, D.C., I have been incredibly impressed by the number of intelligent, genuine, caring, friendly and strong women I’ve met.  Those women will not be on the “Real Housewives of DC.”

I don’t personally know the women who are participating on the show.  I can’t speak to their individual characters and can only make a determination based on their public behavior up until now.  We know, for example, that the White House state dinner crashers are on the show.  We also know that another housewife, became tabloid-famous in England for making out with Prince Harry. This cast is oozing class already, huh?  But we may be in store for some surprises, too (fingers crossed).  A number of the women have their own businesses.  Stacie Turner was raised in foster care and went on to earn an MBA from Harvard.  Several cast members have charities they support listed on their Bravo profiles.  So, perhaps, there’s hope for DC to turn things around for the cringe-inducing “Real Housewives” franchise.

I know the first season has already been taped, but I’ve compiled a helpful list of tips for the “Real Housewives” to use at the reunion show and beyond to mitigate embarrassment and do an OK job of representing the DMV (given the medium, I’m really just hoping for OK; it’s better than mortifying):

#1. You’ve done well for yourself?  Congratulations!  Now Be That Woman and spread the wealth. Follow the examples of The Women’s Foundation community by becoming actively engaged in supporting organizations and programs that make a proven difference in helping local women and girls improve their lives, too.  And you don’t have to pretend to be filthy rich to become involved – I’m sure every nonprofit in the region would echo our sentiments: we gladly accept your time, talent and/or treasure.

#2.  Don’t make catty comments about other women, especially in regards to their physical appearance. We should all live by this.  As Dwight from the “Real Housewives of Atlanta” would say: it’s “trés, trés déclassé.”  Also, everyone will just assume you’re drinking what the kids call hater-ade.  This rule is especially important if there is a microphone under your mouth (whispering won’t help) and a video camera pointed at your face.  I guess you don’t have to welcome every woman you meet into your sisterhood, but it’s totally unnecessary and a waste of energy to tear her down.  Also, keep all prostitution-related words and phrases out of your vocabulary.

#3.  Point your passion in the right direction. Over the years we’ve watched the cast members of the “Real Housewives” dig up dirt on one another that a professional P.I. couldn’t find, organize complex soirees in honor of themselves, and become so enraged by some perceived slight that they turn into something akin to the Incredible Hulk and flip over heavy furniture.  If only all that energy could be used for good instead of petty, petty evil.  Got a lot of pent-up rage?  Why not get angry about how difficult and time-consuming it can be to apply for food stamps?  Good at digging up facts?  How about you pinpoint companies that don’t participate in pay equity?  Like to plan events?  Our Leadership Luncheon committee is always looking for fresh ideas.

#4. Don’t play dumb. You didn’t know you were living in a house you couldn’t afford.  You thought your kids only drank alcohol under adult supervision in your home.  You didn’t think your boyfriend would show anyone else that private video you made.  No one believes you, so don’t insult yourself and us by saying it out loud.

#5.  Your kids are watching. And everyone else, too.

So, how will the “Real Housewives of DC” represent?  We’ll find out beginning on August 5th.

Readers – will you be watching?  Do you have any other tips for aspiring DC-area reality stars?  Leave a comment below.