New Vanity Fair Exposé Drops Some Serious Bravo Bombshells

From Ramona Singer's alleged use of the N-word to coercion accusations against the network, the report is worth the read—even if it won't shock you.

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New Vanity Fair Exposé Drops Some Serious Bravo Bombshells
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On Monday, Vanity Fair published a report laden with allegations—from racism to coercion—made by stars, producers, and the like against Bravo, the NBC-owned network responsible for memorable (read: messy) reality franchises like the Real Housewives and its many spinoffs. If you’re not a fan, it’s a shocking, enraging read. But if you are, well, you probably won’t flip a table.

Three of the story’s identified sources are former New York Housewives, Leah McSweeney, Eboni K. Williams, and Bethenny Frankel, who’s currently calling for Bravo’s talent to unionize. The women accuse Bravo of promoting excessive and unsafe drinking, protecting the racist behavior of cast members, and producing potentially harmful plots. A number of unidentified sources, including a current Housewife, also spoke to VF; Andy Cohen, the network’s top banana, however, declined to answer any questions through a Bravo representative.

The report begins with McSweeney’s memory of a 2019 cast trip to Mexico in which she was too hungover to film. She claims she was convinced to anyway despite having woken up in her own urine. Viewers will likely remember that McSweeney was sober for nine years before starring on the show and has long grappled with substance addiction. “I don’t consider myself an alcoholic at all,” McSweeney said on camera during her first season. “I’ve been drinking for the last six months or so, and I pick and choose when I drink.” McSweeney told VF that this justification was an attempt to “keep her relapse from becoming a storyline.” It did anyway.

Once McSweeney became a Housewife, she began drinking to excess again and quickly became a fan favorite—especially during an episode entitled “Ain’t No Party Like a Hamptons Party” wherein she skinny-dipped and hurled tiki torches across Ramona Singer’s lawn. McSweeney claimed her relapse—culminating in a “major depressive episode” and a hospital stay—was part of a culture of excessive drinking allegedly encouraged by production. According to another unnamed Housewife, it’s common practice for the cast to keep water bottles filled with clear alcohol on set for the purpose of calming their nerves and for a cast member to become “crazy” drunk. That Housewife said she felt producers were hoping for the latter. Beyond New York, substance abuse continues to be a plot line in other Housewives franchises.

VF also obtained Bravo production material for a November 2020 episode of RHONY that reads: “Sonja [Morgan] is on a loop and this abuse of pills and alcohol has been going on for way too long…. Is there anything they can do, or do they need to just be there for her when she falls?” Per McSweeney and Williams, producers didn’t take measures to curtail their co-star’s on-set drinking despite multiple incidents including one in which Morgan allegedly vomited and urinated on herself. A separate internal document obtained by VF shows that production was well aware of her “out of control” inebriation. Morgan declined to comment on the allegations to VF. And representatives for NBCUniversal did not immediately respond to Jezebel’s request for comment.

Meanwhile, the bulk of Williams’ testimony alleges racial hostility and use of the N-word in conversation—with a Black crew member, no less—from former castmate, Ramona Singer. Williams became the first Black cast member of the New York Housewives in 2021 and said she soon realized there was a race issue amongst the ensemble—all of which were white women of a certain age and tax bracket. Prior to filming Williams’ first and only season, NBCUniversal and Bravo held a virtual education session that covered topics like microaggressions and offensive language for the cast.

One racist stereotype the group discussed was the false notion that Black fathers aren’t “present for their children.” Singer, who has been a mainstay at Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago parties, allegedly said: “What if they don’t have a father? Why can’t I say that?” Williams further recalled Singer saying, “Most of them don’t.” The show’s publicist, who is also Black, responded that she has a father, but Singer allegedly cited a study that indicated she was an exception. McSweeney corroborated Williams’s account of this call. Singer, however, told VF: “The training included open dialogue. In that spirit, I asked a question about a statistic I had read about single-parent households, where children with single-parent households were statistically less likely to succeed than two-parent households.” The season, as viewers saw, would be rife with interactions like this one.

In one episode, during an interaction with Williams and Singer, cast member Luann De Lesseps called Williams “an angry woman,” which the latter said she took to mean “angry Black woman.”

“This is why we didn’t need Black people on the show….This is gonna ruin our show,’” Singer allegedly remarked . Singer denied to VF that she said this. But according to Williams, it was common to hear Singer use microaggressions when interacting with her or Black production members. One instance allegedly saw her asking Williams the race of her boyfriend. Williams refused to answer and Singer, when speaking to a Black producer, Darian Edmondson, likened the interaction to a time in which she was called a “Catholic slur:”

Singer told Edmondson that her interaction with Williams reminded her of when Jewish colleagues used a “Catholic slur” with her when she was a young woman and called her a “shiksa,” a Yiddish term for a non-Jewish woman. Edmondson hadn’t heard the word before and later had to ask her mother what it was. According to Edmondson, she said, “Ramona, I have no idea what you’re talking about,” to which Singer said, “Oh, it’s literally like somebody calling you a n-gger.” (Singer says she “never” said the N-word and that this account is a “misrepresentation.” “I did describe an incident where I was called a shiksa while working in college,” she wrote, “but I did not compare the the [sic] two experiences.”)

After that season began airing, Williams recalled hearing that Singer had been reported to Warner Bros. HR, which had allegedly determined that Singer
said she “had difficulty telling Black crew members apart.” Outraged, Williams then began meeting with network executives but was told that a probe to find out whether Singer said the show “didn’t need Black people” was “inconclusive.”

Singer has since been recast on a Housewives spinoff, Ultimate Girls Trip: St. Barth’s [Legacy]. Williams hasn’t appeared as a Housewife since her season ended in 2021. When asked if she’d participate in Frankel’s fledgling union, she replied: “Fuck Bethenny Frankel. You think I’m going to let some white girl speak for me with my experience with a multibillion-dollar corporation?”

Later in the piece, Frankel largely provided background context as to the production methods and the culture of Bravolebrities. “Everybody wants the bag of shit to not be on them at all times,” Frankel told VF. As for her former castmates: “People I never would have given the time of day—who I judged through this toxic process, and who may not have a past I would normally respect—but who have been tossed away after being used like trash.” She added: “It’s kill or be killed.”

Unfortunately though—as demonstrated by an unnamed Housewife in the piece—while other Bravolebrities might share Frankel, McSweeney, and Williams’ sentiments regarding the network and its alleged culture, they’re quite content to stay. Why? According to the others: Money and fame.

“If you go to the whorehouse, you’re gonna get fucked,” the anonymous Housewife told VF. “If we do this, it’s at our own peril. We know that, and we don’t fucking care.”

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