The Real Housewives franchise is infamous for putting unsuspecting regions on the map. Most people affiliate lives of wealthy stay-at-home moms and wives in big cities or the Deep South. Yet, Bravo has shown viewers that the elite can live anywhere in the U.S., and abroad, if you count The Real Housewives of Dubai. People were interested when The Real Housewives of Potomac premiered in 2016, mainly because they’d never heard of the town. Tucked away in the DMV area near Washington, D.C., Potomac is home to many politicians and philanthropists, and Bravo scored big when introducing its cast.
The core four included Karen Huger and her husband described as the Black Bill Gates, Gizelle Bryant spilling the tea on her cheating pastor of an ex-husband, Robyn Dixon and her unconventional cohabitation with her former NBA star ex-husband, and Ashley Darby, a beauty queen who struck financial gold with a wealthy Australian businessman older than her mother. Charisse Jackson and Katie Rost, the other two inaugural cast members, would last only a few seasons. Introduced in Seasons 2 and 3, respectively, were Monique Samuels, a former aspiring musician-turned-NFL trophy wife, and Candiace Dillard Bassett, an Obama White House album and beauty queen who was open about generational wealth provided by her mother. Dr. Wendy Osefo and her four degrees joined in Season 5, and Mia Thornton and her then-$450,000 annual salary the following season. These six anchored the show.
At one point, the franchise was touted as the new The Real Housewives of Atlanta, with some fans saying that the show was giving vibes of the RHOA heyday. But are the glory days of Potomac gone? A recent article in Essence notes that fans of the show are dismayed by the blatant colorism, a conversation that has occurred since Season 5. But the issues with Potomac also lie in its cast being hypocritical, and while it’s been that way from the beginning, it’s progressively gotten worse.
It’s not uncommon for reality stars, especially the seasoned ones, to live in a bubble. But the cast of Potomac takes the award for the most delusional franchise. While entertaining (because we love delusional reality stars), this has been clear from the start of the series and once worked.
In Season 1, we met two Housewives whose marriages were toxic at minimum. Jackson was in a 20-year marriage to former NBA player turned coach Eddie Jordan. Eddie lived full-time in New Jersey during the basketball season and was set to return in the off-season. That never happened. Instead, he stayed in Jersey while she spent money remodeling a home office to become a champagne room as their marriage was in limbo. There were rumors about Eddie’s infidelity, which his then-wife never discussed on camera. But the tears were ever-flowing, and Charisse had no issues discussing her co-stars’ marriages. Gizelle is no saint, but she’s been an allegedly satisfied single for most of her time on the show. For the first few seasons, she showed much of her dating life, much to Charisse’s dismay, who had no problem calling Gizelle everything but a child of God for her weighing her options and enjoying free dinners. At least Gizelle dared to leave a cheating man and live on her terms — or at least initially, as she reconciled with the pastor in Seasons 4 and 5.
Charisse would reveal at the Season 1 reunion that Eddie was not speaking to her. She spent the second season crying about the marriage before an appearance on Iyanla: Fix My Life, where she detailed ignoring Eddie’s disrespect in favor of a life filled with material possessions and personal happiness. They’d eventually split, and she’s returned with a lighter and more fun personality as a friend of the show.
While Charisse’s situation was hard to stomach, nothing has been worse than Robyn’s. We all know the story: she divorced former NBA player Juan Dixon after his infidelity, and the high school sweethearts would end up broke and bankrupt due to bad investments made on Robyn’s behalf. The former couple continued living together once Juan “asked to come home” and finish his collegiate degree to have a career outside the NBA. He dreamed of being a coach, and Robyn, a classic ride-or-die, supported him.
They slept in the same bed and raised their sons together. A hot-mic moment caught Juan admitting to producers he was only “with” Robyn for the sake of their kids, but the passion wasn’t there. They tried to clear it up at the Season 2 reunion and failed.
Juan dated other women, while Robyn saw life coaches encouraging her to do the same. Despite fan and co-star criticism (especially from Ashley Darby), Robyn stuck it out, and in Season 5, they got re-engaged. But cheating rumors plagued their relationship.
When she was dealing with the remnants of depression courtesy of the COVID-19 quarantine, he called her lazy and unattractive. She asked him to handle her with care on camera, and he refused. A wedding date had yet to be set. Viewers learned after the Season 7 reunion that Juan was inappropriate with other women. But she pressed on, and they wed in a ceremony not filmed for the show, evading questions about Juan’s indiscretions. Now, she’s spending Season 8 defending her marriage and Juan’s behavior while he talks to her over FaceTime calls about being too emotional over her co-stars’ Q&A sessions. Juan even had the audacity to tell Robyn that her feelings made his skin crawl.
Then there’s the beloved Ashley Darby, who made history as the youngest cast member of a franchise, beginning the show when she was 26. She married Michael Darby, an older and financially stable real estate tycoon. Michael was a walking red flag. Aside from blogs catching him out in the street with other women, his constant butt-touching of other men has been captured on camera more than once, which Ashley claims was all in good fun. He’s been overheard telling random women in bars that he has “a boyfriend and a wife.” Instead of acknowledging the issues, Ashley put on her superwoman cape and, in Season 5, revealed the two engaged in threesomes with other women.
Still, she filed for divorce. But nothing of that divorce has been covered. Here and there, Ashley has opened up about her split from Michael, noting that he’s made it difficult for her financially and made it hard to move on in her dating life by using their toddler sons as pawns and popping up whenever she has male company. Instead, Ashley masterfully inserts herself into her co-stars’ mess.
This season, Ashley, Gizelle and Charisse held an intervention for Robyn to snap her out of her Juan daze. It was unsuccessful. Robyn chooses to be unhappy and project her misery onto her co-stars. She buckles with Juan when he raises his voice yet quickly snaps at her cast mates during verbal altercations. It’s sad to watch, but delusion keeps her afloat.
The Housewives’ relationships with their men are easy to pick apart because they’re often their main storylines, but delusional thoughts run through Potomac. There are dozens of examples, from Karen trying to explain away her husband’s business tax issues in Season 3 to Gizelle believing she didn’t have to explain the downfall of her once-successful makeup line. What makes it worse is that the cast quickly notes their nemesis’ flaws and shortcomings but plays the victim when it’s done to them.
While Candiace is right in her assessment that Gizelle and her BFF/sidekick Robyn have played these mean-girl games for seasons, she had been complicit in this in prior seasons. Candiace may have a moral compass deemed better than her two co-stars and a vocabulary that competes with Merriam-Webster, but she has also played in and engaged in the reindeer games. One may even assert that her seemingly being iced out is karma for the same thing she pleaded with the collective to do to Monique Samuels after the winery incident that carried Season 5.
In the fallout of the unfortunate fight, Candiace was understandably hurt and embarrassed. But her campaign to get everyone to pick her side and block Monique out was reminiscent of middle school drama. At the time, Wendy Osefo was a newcomer and took Candiace’s side, deeming Monique an embarrassment to affluent Black women, despite the fact that she’s also engaged in a war of words, using much profanity (and proudly speaking about having a pretty vagina) toward her co-stars.
The green-eyed bandits have mistreated both Candiace and Wendy. But their past desires to be part of the cool club had them centered amid the drama. Monique swore that there was a plot brought forth by Robyn, Gizelle and Charisse that could ruin her marriage, one that questioned the paternity of her then-infant son. Candiace hopped on Instagram Live to confirm such a plot was being curated and that the only reason there was no follow-through was because she told the group no one would believe the rumor due to Chris and their son looking too much alike. She may have stopped the rumor from making the air, but it did take place. And yet, just two seasons later, she and her husband were on the receiving end of a damaging storyline she believes was drummed up by Robyn and Gizelle. Candice refuses, and for good reason, to let Gizelle off the hook for implying her husband tried to seduce her.
The speculation that Wendy went under the knife to prevent her lawyer husband’s eyes from straying was also brought to the forefront by Gizelle. Wendy was enraged and shocked that Gizelle could do such things, as she had considered Gizelle just the previous season to be her “big sister.” But she sat idle and watched Gizelle create similar chaos in her co-stars’ lives.
In this case, the lesson is simple yet hard to swallow: What goes around comes around. And typically, it’s always worse on the other end.
During the Season 5 reunion, the idea of colorism was brought to the forefront after the Monique and Candiace fight. Most would agree that fighting, especially among adults, is unacceptable. But the fallout from the fight is what was concerning.
Monique was instantly vilified by her cast members and deemed unhinged and a bad representation of Black women on television. She was called a hoodrat, a bitch and beyond, but Candiace, in the aftermath, was pulled away with a shifted wig from the shuffle. Clearly, they were hellbent on icing her out of the group, as Gizelle and Robyn disliked Monique from the start.
What should have been the discussion following the fight and at the reunion was how Gizelle and Robyn instigated the estrangement between Candiace and Monique and the physical altercation. Despite the women trying to avoid one another throughout the season, Gizelle and Robyn forced conversations at group gatherings. Before Monique started swinging, she and Candiace engaged in a verbal war and pointed each other’s fingers in their faces. Gizelle pushed Monique, claiming she was trying to create space between the women. Instead, it escalated Monique to physically hitting Candiace under the belief that Candiace hit her. Gizelle nor Robyn were held accountable for their contributions.
Anyone familiar with colorism understands that the labeling of Monqiue, a brown-skinned woman, as aggressive and dangerous primarily by Robyn and Gizelle, two light-skinned Black women, was problematic. The situation with Monique could have been a one-off and never discussed again, but when another physical altercation arose in Season 7, this time with Mia, another light-skinned woman, attacking Wendy, a dark-skinned woman, Robyn and Gizelle changed their stance.
According to them, they don’t like Wendy, so there is no reason to defend her against Mia. Robyn even said in an interview before Season 8 premiered that it was “no big deal” that Mia threw a drink in Wendy’s face and that Candiace being beaten by Monique was more criminal.
Ironically, in Season 1, Gizelle and Robyn berated Katie for identifying as biracial, which they felt was disrespectful as a Black woman. It’s hilarious that the two who started as the most pro-Black women from the franchise have turned out to be the two who create the most division among the group.
The drama and xenophobia resulting from the debates between Wendy and newcomer Nneka Ihim, a fellow Nigerian who is also Igbo, shows that colorism has reached its peak. While the two are both from the same culture, it seems that Nneka has become an adversary for Wendy to be liked and accepted by Robyn and Gizelle.
For RHOP to survive, Bravo executives need to intervene fast. Fans are tired, and the patterns are clear. And this comes from a place of love as a fan.