Who Is Diana Jenkins, Really?

From a suspicious past to more recent racist comments, the new Real Housewife of Beverly Hills has viewers keeping both eyes on the wealthy philanthropist.

In Depth
Who Is Diana Jenkins, Really?
Photo:Dimitrios Kambouris (Getty Images)

Since the first season of The Real Housewives premiered on Bravo in 2006, the network has maintained a proclivity for platforming objectively terrible people in succeeding offshoots, ranging from toxic (Erika Jayne) to just plain tacky (Ramona Singer). And while the network seems to expect and maybe even thrive on the controversy that’s become commonplace of its casting choices, it takes a certain kind of housewife to attract the instantaneous ire of viewers everywhere.

This season of The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills, that would be Sanela Diana Jenkins, 49, a woman so shrouded in salacious Hollywood lore and Panthère de Cartier (the preferred jewelry of the nauseatingly nouveau riche) you could almost fail to notice a not-so-little rumor that implicates her as a madam in an international sex-trafficking ring.

“You need a new villain? Here I am,” purrs Jenkins in this season’s trailer—and as it’s become abundantly clear in recent episodes, those eight words would be a threat, a promise, and an announcement of the arrival of yet another big and bad in the Bravoverse we don’t even enjoy hating.

Since viewers first met Jenkins in the May 11 premiere, she hasn’t exactly been forthcoming about her life, apart from the following: She’s a Bosnian refugee (a fact she’ll remind us of no less than 10 times in the first three episodes alone); before traveling, she sends an advance team to outfit her hotel suite’s closet with some of the most lackluster ensembles ever worn by a person of her obscene wealth; and finally, she counts a head-butt as a viable weapon in her fighting arsenal. Why? Because she’s Bosnian, in case you forgot, and head-butting is fair game there.

Other character notes: Jenkins is engaged to and has a child with a 33-year-old man whose most noteworthy acting credit is Nickelodeon’s Zoe 101. She was previously married to a Scottish financier, Roger “The Dodger” Jenkins, with whom she shares two older children. And she counts Elton John and Kim Kardashian among her many famous friends.

For a fleeting moment, Jenkins might’ve seemed to be your run-of-the-mill Beverly Hills socialite, coasting on the kind of rags-to-riches story that confuses other rich people into assuming one is a good person. However, during a dinner in Episode 2, Jenkins is asked about a certain coffee table book—and that’s where things get interesting.

As fellow housewife Lisa Rinna introduces Jenkins to the rest of the cast, Rinna credits her friend with Room 23, a 384-page photographical menagerie of a who’s who in Hollywood doing weird things in a hotel suite. “This artistic exploration depicts a year in the life of a Beverly Hills penthouse suite featuring 100 celebrities,” reads a description on the Room 23 website. The most noteworthy portraits include: Ray Liotta lying on a woman’s bare breast; George Clooney holding glass ornaments to his chest as if to emulate Dolly Parton-esque proportions; solo shots of a very blonde and scantily clad Lindsay Lohan and Amanda Bynes; storied sexual predator Brett Ratner scarfing a cheeseburger; and Sharon Stone and Cheryl Tiegs stretched out and smoldering in lingerie. The book, strangely, claims all proceeds were used to “support human rights projects.”

The story becomes more unsettling as the other housewives grow curious about the project—more specifically, how Jenkins seems uninterested in speaking about it. During their first cast trip of the season, as the group tucks into dinner in Mexico, she finally addresses a rumor that the book was being used as a menu of women for hire in an international sex-trafficking ring—run by Jenkins, herself. Though she attempts to dismiss it, Bravo producers still have their fun at her expense, showing a screenshot of a 2012 story from none other than Jezebel.com. (Robert Downey Jr. later denied that he was the anonymous celebrity tattletale at the center of that piece.)

Apparently, the rumor started circulating after a blind item from a gossip blog implicated Jenkins as a madam who catered to high-powered elites, and the story garnered the attention of internet sleuths. It carried enough weight that it was briefly investigated by Jezebel’s Tracie Egan Morrissey. According to an anonymous source from the gossip blog, Jenkins was operating a “high class call girl/party-girl ring” that involved introducing young actresses like Hayden Panettiere and Amanda Bynes to wealthy and powerful men across the globe.

The blind item can be read in full here, but the most notable portion includes the following:

I am a FORMER personal “friend” of a woman named Diana Jenkins. Doubt you know her, but she’s the Rosetta Stone of every scandal and perversion from Hwood all over the globe. She’s an Uber-wealthy divorcee whose hubby ran UK’s Barclay’s bank – and she ran the Arab investors for the bank! She’s been running a high class call girl/party-girl ring for Arabs, Wall Street, DC, Royals, and Hollywood elites. She’s also a MAJOR philanthropist, arts supporter, political donor, and social hostess to EVERYONE. Her best Hwood pals include Sean Penn, Clive Davis, Ari Emanuel, George Clooney, Cindy Crawford, and her “little pet” named Hayden. Diana is the connector of wealthy Arabs and Asians and Athletes with Hwood actresses/models. She also is a sick and twisted bitch.

“It’s very, very dangerous,” Jenkins says of the accusations on the show. “All you need to do is leak a bunch of fake rumors and you can actually destroy somebody’s life.”

“So you’re not an international sex trafficker and madam of high-class prostitutes?” an off-camera producer presses Jenkins during a confessional after the article is shown.

“It’s honestly so ridiculous that I can’t even believe, actually, that it caught on,” she responds with the laugh of a person well-versed in waving off a sordid story as a silly rumor. Despite the fact that at least two of her castmates didn’t appear to be convinced, the conversation shifted. As of now, it’s not been discussed any further on the show.

However, this was a morsel of information about Jenkins mighty enough to elicit the watchful eye of the terminally online and the Bravo blogosphere—myself, included. I did some further digging on the new housewife, and one particular story bears even more details to linger on: So connected is Jenkins that she was reportedly “instrumental” in saving Barclays Bank, where her then-husband worked in the controversial tax division at the time, when it was on the verge of government bailout in 2008. According to documents from a 2018 court case wherein a colleague of “The Dodger” sued the bank for “pushing her out of the deal” to bail out the bank, Jenkins had forged a friendship with Middle Eastern royalty, Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim bin Jaber Al-Thani, the former prime minister of Qatar, and his wife. Naturally, Al-Thani is one of the richest men in the world.

“Diana teed up Hamad thru his wife that’s how it began,” Roger Jenkins wrote in emails shown in court. “His wife wanted to be Diana’s circle.”

Evidently, Jenkins’ “circle” is so valuable that Al-Thani paid Barclays $4 billion. Are the hairs on the back of anyone else’s neck standing up?

“She’s a master seducer,” Jimmy Choo founder Tamara Mellon told W Magazine of Jenkins in a 2010 profile, whom Mellon also referred to as her “wingman.” “She’s extraordinarily beautiful, and you get kind of mesmerized by her. But when you’re in her clutches, it’s great. It’s the most fun I’ve ever had in my life.”

“She’s like the pied-piper,” David Furnish, Elton John’s husband, echoed. “She’ll go to a club and find the coolest and most interesting people to hang with, and then everybody comes back to the boat, and she’ll have a DJ spinning, and the atmosphere just clicks. Suddenly there’s Bono, and there’s Sean Penn; there’s Julian Schnabel.”

As successful as Jenkins might’ve been as the right hand to one of the most powerful—and wealthiest—financiers in London, she had ambitions of her own. In a 2012 Tatler feature, she spoke candidly of “reinventing herself” in 1995 following the death of her brother and fleeing London’s high-society and haughty housewives for Malibu, where she and her then-husband maintained part-time residence.

“[The wives] treated me like I was an Eastern European mail-order bride. I realized that, unfortunately, with social girls if you have a big diamond ring they will talk to you, so I wore a diamond ring. My lovely husband bought me a diamond ring. It hurt him to see how snobbily I was treated.”

The Jenkinses divorced in 2012, but she was awarded £150 million in the settlement, making her one of the 500 wealthiest people in the UK. And her star in Los Angeles society had only just begun to rise.

Since Jenkins has called California home, she’s peddled a series of businesses—from Neuro Brands, a line of lifestyle drinks, to a swimwear line—and she posited herself as a philanthropist with a little black book that would rival, well, another well-connected rich person who “hanged himself” in federal prison. In 2010, she raised $1 million for the Clinton Foundation. However, when a popular post from @entylawyer drew parallels between Jenkins and Jeffrey Epstein—using a photograph of Epstein, Donald Trump, and a blonde woman that resembles Jenkins—and asserted Room 23 was a “front” for sex trafficking, Jenkins refuted that the woman in the photograph was her with some rather choice words: “when these men were doing whatever they were doing, I was a broke ass refugee in london with no passport no name no country no family no one to help me. Surviving on barley any food. Sending whatever I could to my parents in Bosnia to survive.”

Still, there’s little doubt that Jenkins has a knack for collecting scores of powerful friends—a fact that’s been well-documented in every profile written about her. A simple search on Getty reveals Jenkins to be front and center in a decades-long celebrity circle jerk; everyone from Cindy Crawford to Kid Rock is on the list. In another early scene of this season of Housewives, Jenkins flippantly mentions she was with Kim Kardashian in Paris the night before her 2016 robbery, where she was held at gunpoint as thieves stole $10 million worth of jewelry.

“You know I was with Kim in Paris when she got robbed,” Jenkins confided in Rinna during another dinner. “I left the day before, because I kept saying, ‘I don’t feel safe. I don’t feel safe.’”

Notably, Kardashian also shot an Elle cover at Jenkins’ Malibu estate, and several scenes of Keeping Up With The Kardashians were filmed at the home during the summer of 2020.

We might never know for certain whether Jenkins’ past and dubious connections are worthy of all the aforementioned speculation. But it’s Jenkins’ other recent controversies on the show—alleged sex trafficking aside—that have numerous viewers calling for her removal.

First came her Instagram spat with Kristen “Philly Diva” Dionne, a content creator and Bravo commentator, in the comments section of Dionne’s post that highlighted Jenkins’ stark physical transformation in recent years. In a since-deleted comment, Jenkins replied to Dionne: “It can’t feel good being a Black content creator.”

Following swift backlash from fans, Jenkins then attempted to defend herself. “I assumed ‘Black content creator’ was a title referring to a page that would be focused on snarky content,” she wrote. “I copied the term because I thought that’s what it meant. I didn’t realize it was referencing to you as a Black woman and a content creator.” Hm.

In response, Garcelle Beauvais, the first and only full-time Black cast member of the Beverly Hills franchise, recently vented to Andy Cohen on Watch What Happens Live that Jenkins was “nuts” and “uneducated.”

Hours later, Jenkins fired back on Instagram: “Dear Garcelle, Next time you go on national television why don’t you educate viewers on how many times I went to Haiti. Your home country. Why don’t you tell viewers how many millions of my dollars I have given to your country. A woman from Bosnia did that.”

Fans aptly pointed out that Jenkins’ justification of her comment via bragging to Beauvais about how much money she may or may not have given to her home country wasn’t just petty, but a harmful microaggression.

Of course, this isn’t the first time Jenkins has been accused of being “uneducated” on issues of race: In 2020, she was sued for butchering $70K worth of her neighbor’s hedges to boost the price of her $125 million Malibu mansion and accused of “Karen-like” behavior by the neighbor’s Black security guard. Hilariously, the neighbor just so happens to be Jan Koum, the founder of WhatsApp. According to the suit, Jenkins “went on a tirade” and eventually called police to the home when she was told to stop the gardener from continuing to trim Koum’s hedges. Jenkins has since sold the estate.

What’s perhaps most interesting in my findings about Jenkins—not the alleged sex trafficking ring, nor the suspicious charity fundraising—can be summarized in a solitary quote from a 2010 profile. And no, it’s not the one where she likens herself to a “transvestite” when looking at older photos. In this one, she discusses her reinvention from Sanela, a young, poor refugee from war-torn Bosnia, to Diana, named for the goddess of the hunt.

“That girl, Sanela, I didn’t want to know her anymore because she had so much on her shoulders. So I invented Diana—all smiley and happy, beautiful, charming.” Sanela, she later admits, “doesn’t really approve of Diana.”

It’s quite clear which version we’re getting on the extended ego-trip that is a starring role on The Real Housewives. And yet, one has to wonder what others linger much further below the carefully crafted surface.

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