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In this video, Chelsea dissects one of our favorite money-related topics: the Real Housewives and their influence on our culture, spending decisions, and perceptions of wealth and aspiration.

Script research by Jack Ryan IG: j.a.c.k.r.y.a.n and Twitter: @ukulelefan98

Erica Jayne spending:

RH costume borrowing:

Fast fashion seasons:

Pressure to not repeat outfits:

Who pays for RH vacations:

RHOBH Dubai trip:

Travel & influencer culture:

Bethenny Frankel business:

Tipsy Girl:

She by Sheree:

Stop the grind:

Teresa Giudice:

Erica Jayne husband:

Jen Shah:

Socioeconomic status & incarceration rate:

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Hey, guys.

It's Chelsea from The Financial Diet. And this week I want to talk to you about one of my all time favorite subjects to talk about in my personal life, which I am frankly thrilled to have an opportunity to talk about in the context of TFD.

And that is the Bravo Reality TV franchise, The Real Housewives. I have been watching The Real Housewives literally since inception. I still remember what it felt like back in 2006 to watch those women in Orange County which at the time I was still in high school actually, was very in the zeitgeist due to things like Laguna Beach, the OC, et cetera, to see them all holding those oranges and giving us all a peek into a lifestyle that for most of us was incredibly foreign.

Even back then though, on that very first season of the very first iteration of the franchise in the OC, you already had the contrasts on the show between the haves and the have nots. Scholars like myself will recall the season one dichotomy between Vicki Gunvalson who lived in one of the more aspirational homes in Coto de Caza and seemed to have literally anything. In 2006, woman could aspire to including an incredible array of sky tops, and the woman who worked for her, Laurie Petersen, who used to live behind the gate herself in a lavish marriage with an enormous home, and many cars and all kinds of luxuries, and now found herself living in a tiny condo with her multiple children, including some who had long since grown out of the house, and working for Vicky effectively as an assistant.

Laurie's desire to get back behind the gate and resume her Coto de Caza lifestyle was a big driving factor in what made the show so compelling. You weren't just getting the aspiration, you were also getting what it felt like to be surrounded by that aspiration but not be able to participate in it. Which is something that at the time I really resonated with.

I was at the time living in an extremely affluent town in Maryland, and was living in a very average middle class family that couldn't afford all of the things I was constantly seeing around me; that BMW was being driven to school by seniors who got them as early graduation gifts, the multiple boats many families had docked in various slips around the town, and the general ease with which people tended to spend money at that time. That peak into an extreme level of aspiration, coupled with the reality of what it felt like not to have it, was really compelling television. And it's not surprising that The Real Housewives spun off into so many successful franchises.

But as the years have gone on and the show has evolved along with it, we now finished up season 15 of that inaugural Real Housewives of Orange County, the show has simultaneously focused on more and more extreme levels of aspiration coupled with the very harsh realities of what it means to achieve this aspiration through, let's just say not super legitimate means. I'm thinking of things like the Judases collectively spending about five years in prison, which was a big plotline on the show, followed by Joe getting deported back to Italy. Or and by the time this episode airs the situation may have evolved even further, the current enormous scandal embroiling the Girardi's.

But more on those things later. The point is as the show has accelerated more and more of the aspiration, the desperation and often duplicitous means needed to keep up with that level of aspiration have followed suit and caused a ton of cognitive dissonance, both in the show and in the people who watch it, and even further on the culture at large of which the show is both a reflection and an influence. And similarly as the housewives barrel into aspiration and struggle to keep up with it, we find ourselves aiming for that aspiration in our culture while feeling all of the negative impacts of what it really takes to keep up with it, especially when you don't actually have the money.

The Real Housewives franchise has fundamentally changed the way that we think about a lot of aspects of wealth, and how we'll spend money and how we represent ourselves, particularly as women. I won't lie, there are some elements of the show that I frankly feel quite guilty watching. But there are other elements where I do genuinely feel that as there are so few representation of real women of that age bracket on television, it's probably in some ways better than nothing.

Either way, The Real Housewives has had an extraordinary impact on our culture, especially in four key areas. And again especially for women. So without further ado, let's dive into how The Real Housewives have infected the way we think about money.

The first big place we see the impact is in luxury clothing. During the time window that they're filming, the housewives are on camera for basically everything, especially for things like confessionals, vacations, and group events. The pressure to spend on these wardrobes is enormous and has only increased as the series has gone on.

If you look back at those 2006 episodes, you're seeing women in fairly average clothes. I mean, they're probably pretty nice for 2006 standards, but you could picture them wearing them any old day in their house. Compare that to now.

Erica Jayne notoriously spends $40,000 a month to maintain both her outfits and her glam, which she pays for out of pocket and claims that it has nothing to do with her successful husband's paycheck. This is of course not realistic to the modern viewer but throughout the show becomes just a normal part of Erica's brand and how she's perceived, and this is before the allegations of criminal activity, which we'll get into later. And former Real housewife of New York City, Alex McCord gone too soon imo, claimed on rumor fix that many of the people on the show would just borrow and return items because the pressure to dress well is just so high and compounded by the fact that, unlike other shows they don't have their own costume department.

She adds it's just not realistic for anyone to have those kinds of clothes on hand. And as the desire to look more and more aspirational has grown on the show, we see that reflected in our culture. We may not be filming for a reality show, but we are presenting a very curated picture of our lives on places like Instagram.

And the pressure to look a certain way can be just as intense. Fast fashion trends now cycle at an unprecedented rate. Instead of two seasons a year the industry undergoes 52 micro seasons.

And according to a 2017 survey commissioned by the London sustainability firm, Hubbub, 41% of 18 to 25-year-olds feel pressured to wear a different outfit every time they go out. And another survey commissioned by the Barnardo's charity in 2019, found that British people will spend up to 2.7 billion pounds of clothes during the summer that will only be worn a single time. Like the housewives who never want to be caught on camera repeating a look, although the realest ones among them occasionally do it.

I'm looking at you, Darinda. We similarly feel a pressure that once we've debuted an outfit on Instagram , you're really not supposed to be trotting it out again, and certainly never twice on the grid. Often with these pop culture phenomena, it's difficult to tell the chicken or the egg.

But it's important to note that the housewives did initially begin as a somewhat accurate reflection of the upper middle class. And has since morphed into something that both looks even more like our funhouse mirror of face filters, and new outfits every outing, and as perhaps just a step ahead of it. Another area that we see the Housewives bifurcation of our culture, and again especially when it comes to how we present ourselves on social media is invocations.

When asked, who pays for the famous housewive's vacations? Andy Cohen has revealed to OK Magazine that Bravo does. And while in the earliest seasons these vacations may have been somewhat organic.

As the show has progressed, they have become a very clear production tool. Alex McCord again, rip, has spoken out saying typically if a trip is happening in the show and it's not season one it is put together by the producers, which brings us to perhaps the most famous and ostentatious example of how these trips work our perception of reality, given that they are being presented as something organically happening amongst the women. And I'm talking now of course, about that famous Beverly Hills trip to Dubai, where the housewives stayed in the Royal Bridge Suite.

Which is priced at about $35,000 per night, for a 924 square meter three-bedroom suite. And just to show how deep this gaslighting goes, this trip was framed in the show is within Kyle Richard's budget, when in reality, it was the producers at Bravo who were really footing the bill, probably combined with some level of sponsorship or quid pro quo from the hotel. But it is explicitly framed in the show to give the appearance that these women are able to afford multiple nights and multiple rooms at $35,000 or more a night, when going on a simple girls trip.

And when it comes to the House of mirrors, that is the way budgets are portrayed on this show. Even things like that famous hotel, Tinsley was sadly living in for several seasons, that was also a combination of production and quid pro quo. It shouldn't be a surprise that the hotel had to figure prominently into her season taglines.

Also hope that girl is doing OK. Since Scott left her again, she hasn't posted on the ground in quite some time. And when you think about the level of deception being portrayed in this show, it's hard not to draw parallels with how vacations have transformed in the age of social media visibility.

The rise of influencer culture and shows like The Real Housewives, add to these certain trips. In 2019, the average millennial plans on taking roughly five trips throughout the year, three of which are expected to be international according to AARP's 2019 Travel Trends report. That's more international trips than Gen X and more overall trips than Baby Boomers.

And many companies use this information to advertise to Gen Z and millennials, as well. Social media platforms have also latched onto this trend. Millennials often travel not only to explore but also to express themselves through images and stories.

And this is exactly what social media platforms can offer. As a result, travel services are using social media to advertise and directly connect with millennials according to a report from Deloitte Consulting. And shows like The Real Housewives very explicitly feed into the perception that these lavish often international trips are normal, and add to the fun house mirror effect that is understanding other people's budgets.

It's normal for us all to be scrolling social media, seeing someone on what feels like the 10th vacation of the year and wondering how they can possibly afford that, when they work a job that if you Google on Glassdoor, don't pay all that much there's usually probably something else at play. It could be rich parents, it could be a sugar daddy type situation, it could be getting these trips comped in exchange for posting things on social media, or it could be a trust fund. Either way, this dynamic of presenting our travel ability well beyond our means to pay for it is completely precedented in shows like The Real Housewives, which are predicated on the idea that they're showing you a real glimpse into these women's lives.

And when it comes to the way modern women portray themselves on the show, we cannot not talk about the "girlbossification" as experienced through The Real Housewives. It's hard to say exactly because obviously, a lot of Reality TV history was being made in the late aughts. But I think it's fair to say that The Real Housewives franchise really pioneered this specific dynamic of women as entrepreneurs being their most defining trait.

Real Housewives of New York super fans like myself will remember how much in season one of that show, Bethany's little attempts to sell her weird like gluten free vegan, dairy free, everything free, sad, muffins, and some grocery store in Greenwich, Connecticut was framed as almost sad. And she was compared to all the other cast members as being like this perpetual striver who really should just get it together and marry a rich man and live in a townhouse like they all did. And yet by Season 2, the fact that Skinnygirl was such a fantastically successful company made her the star of the show, and subsequently led to the downfall of Joe Zarin, who just couldn't be happy for a bitch.

But even before Skinnygirl red was plastered on literally every episode of that show, we had people like Vicki Gunvalson who was famous from day one of the franchise for being an incredibly successful businessman, who's at the time husband was barely interested in working. As the show went on, and I think also as the cast and production realized just how much the business aspirations of characters like Vicky and Bethenny were resonating with the audience, It became pretty much de rigueur for every single cast member of the show to at least attempt a fake business. All the way down to things like Jewels Weinstein sad attempt to get like that computer shot into stores at Whole Foods, like, what was that?

Either way, these sort of fore entrepreneurship of the show didn't just impact how these women were perceived it also had a huge effect on that late OTS, early teens, girls ossification phenomenon, that was right at that sweet spot before we realized that women could be perpetrators of exploitation under capitalism, just a man can. But to dive a little deeper on some of those pioneering Housewives brands, there is the aforementioned Skinnygirl . Now, sitting here in spring of 2021 just the name Skinnygirl will really send shivers up anyone's spine who has even the slightest level of sense about marketing.

Clearly, we are past the era where the most aspirational female image possible is a real thin woman holding a Martini, a briefcase, and a baby while running from meeting to meeting. But people were high as hell off that shit in 2008. I would like to add that according to Google, the Skinnygirl, Margarita is only approximately 18 calories, less than a regular Margarita.

And it's gross. Is that worth the 18 calories? 18 calories like you can literally get that by walking to your door and back, I don't know. You decide.

I report, you decide. Frankel is probably the best example of someone building an actual empire off of the show that isn't all about the show. Yes, there are people like Kandi Burruss and Vicki Gunvalson, who did and still do have quite a lot of financial success.

But they did it before the show. Frankel was really able to parlay The Real Housewives fame without relying on it entirely. Her Skinnygirl Margarita, a disgusting low-calorie ready to drink Margarita mix was sold to Beam, a liquor conglomerate which makes Jim Beam, in 2011.

And the deal was worth a reported $100 million according to an estimate from Forbes. But then on the other hand, you have things like Sonya Morgan's tipsy girl, the notorious cheater brand of Bethany's Skinnygirl. It was clearly made for a show and a complete cash grab probably concocted by that very greasy pizza guy, it was called out brutally on the show by Bethenny for just being a fake, and also using the show to have a completely faux entrepreneurship storyline, similarly to the dreadful fashion show without fashion's brought to us by She by Sheree.

Basically, Sheree Whitfield in the early seasons of The Real Housewives of Atlanta planned on creating a pair of joggers for the show, and then decided that while she couldn't break into the actual clothing market, parlayed that She by Sheree storyline into being quite frankly a pretty engaging one for the show. I feel like Sheree's entire arc for at least the first part of The Real Housewives of Atlanta was just like things not work out for her but her somehow making them charming regardless. All of that said, I'm a Sheree Whitfield apologist.

So take my commentary on her with a grain of salt. What's particularly fascinating to me though, as we look of The Real Housewives to broader culture pipeline, is the way in which girl lassitude is actively revealed on the show to be usually quite hollow, but is still framed as aspirational. Although every season, Ramona Singer has a new fake business that is routinely decimated by Bethenny Frankel, and yet she's still obsessed with making it a central part of her storyline every single season.

And it's likely because the Real Housewives really perpetuate a specific model referred to as the working rich. These are people who do not have to work, literally could not work another day in their life in many cases, yet actually begin working more hours than average. It's probably a combination of addiction to work, addiction to the validation that increasing income provides, and being on the hamster wheel of an ever inflating lifestyle.

But it's interesting that this working rich behavior is not framed as a bad thing on the show. Many characters even famously and proudly state that they don't need to work, but choose to because that's where they get most of their identification. And we see that the working rich phenomenon is something that is increasingly prevalent in our society.

As wealth inequality has increased, so have the average hours that these super earners are working. And as women make up a greater and greater part of the workforce, and one can only assume influenced by this heavy level of growth ossification, their numbers are spiraling upward too. And it's easy to see how a woman could get trapped in the cycle when it's such a huge part of her validation.

They work hard because they think that what they're doing is never going to be enough. They're afraid a competitor will outpace them, or that they won't be able to create a return on a big investment, or they're afraid that they'll lose their job to someone who promises to fit an extra two hours in their workday. The fact that the faux entrepreneurship on The Real Housewives franchise hasn't diminished over the years and has managed to withstand so many fake and failed businesses, speaks a lot to how we still hold a perception in our culture that rich people should always at least be keeping up the appearance of working.

I would like to take this opportunity, though, to say that I have a strong opinion that probably the best housewife of all time just like on a well-rounded front is Kandi Burruss. And I feel like she's probably the only one who typifies a good relationship between actual success before the show, working hard throughout the show, but still largely staying in her lane, and using the show to parlay to other things while not being too caught up in it. I feel like she's like one of the only really good examples of that.

Good Candy. But lastly, when it comes to all of these false images catching up to them, we get to perhaps, my favorite segment, the Criminal Activity. The Real Housewives franchise has always told an incredibly fascinating line between getting a certain amount of catharsis from seeing these incredibly aspirational people fall and be held accountable for their sins, versus putting them all on a redemption arc, and almost celebrating the duplicitous means that they used to get to their wealth.

I mean, we've known for like four or five seasons now that Derate and Pique are pretty much open scammers. And that has become part of their charm. It's a baffling dynamic.

But it's also hard to deny that from a pure ratings standpoint, these women are all but openly rewarded for the drama and attention that Criminal Activity brings to the show. Look at Teresa Judaize. She initially captured the attention of law enforcement who claimed that the couple failed to disclose a reported $110,000 salary for participating on The Real Housewives.

Meanwhile, Joe was also accused of failing to report $1 million in income between 2004 and 2008. They were eventually indicted on federal fraud charges on July 29, 2013 and each released on $500,000 bail. At the time, the couple's lawyer stated that the personalities would plead not-guilty.

And though these crimes did eventually lead to both Teresa and Joe going to jail, and Joe eventually being deported much to the distress of their several daughters, it also proved to be incredibly lucrative and arguably beneficial to the Judaize family brand. Teresa's book on the subject debuted at Number 2 on the New York Times best seller list. She's also been featured in every single season of The Real Housewives of New Jersey, including those since being released from prison.

And has been the subject of innumerable specials and interviews all about her experience. In fact, and I have to out myself here by saying that the New Jersey franchise has always been my least favorite because I don't want to see a bunch of Italian people yelling at each other. If I want to look at that, I'll just go to like my aunt's house.

But also because the extent to which criminality and families abusing each other was rewarded on that show was always a little gross. Not to say, it doesn't happen to some extent on every franchise, but it was a bit much on the New Jersey one. But anyone who's familiar with the show knows that Teresa go into the clink only proved to be eventually more valuable to her brand and led her fans to be more obsessed with her.

Then we come to my favorite story, Erica Jayne. And I we just know from watching the trailer that she is not going to be held accountable for shit this season. And that is why I'm officially clocking out of the Beverly Hills franchise because I'm so tired of watching season after season of them ignoring all of the real actual drama and sometimes criminality going on in their own lives, to focus on one fake storyline for the entire 20 episodes until we are all bored to tears.

Teddi Mellencamp got booted off that show but I don't know why because she's the perfect representative of that show. And as someone put it on bitch sash. I can't remember who, I could credit.

She is the epitome of go girl give us nothing. And so is that franchise. I'm done.

Anyway, to get into Erica Janes bullshit, Erica Jayne real name, Erica Girardi has been in the news quite a bit recently as it was revealed that Erica's husband, lawyer Tom Girardi and owner of the Girardi Keese law firm, has embezzled money from settlements of victims that they have represented in lawsuits, allegedly among many other alleged crimes. The list of shit that Tom Girardi is accused of is long. And the evidence that Erica was aware of this for a long time is even longer.

But a lot of us may be familiar with the most famous and most salacious of those alleged misdeeds. When on October 29, 2018, a new Boeing 737 MAX 8 carrying 189 passengers and crew members crashed shortly after takeoff in Jakarta, Indonesia. Everyone on board the Lion Air flight died.

Girardi and his law firm were hired to represent surviving relatives of the crash, and a suit filed earlier this month alleges Girardi and his firm embezzled millions of dollars that were intended to go to some of those family members. Girardi and his firm are quote on the verge of financial collapse and locked in a downward spiral of mounting debts and dwindling funds and his need to quote fund outrageous lifestyles for himself and his soon-to-be ex-wife Erica Jayne. And anyone who follows Erica or has even seen her on social media truly knows the definition of gaslighting as throughout the past six months of all of this being revealed, and also inherently revealing that the source of her $40,000 a month glam squad was undoubtedly just stolen fucking money.

Everything she has posted on social media during that time has been just coy, flirtatious, overly photoshopped, pictures of herself with cutesy little captions as she always does as if nothing was happening. Hold this bitch accountable. And well, it's probably likely that she's going to somehow get away from this clean because life isn't fair.

What's undeniable to anyone who's watched the upcoming season trailer of Beverly Hills is that this scandal is if anything an opportunity for her to get more screen time, more attention, and more notoriety. Which is for good or bad the most valuable form of currency on the show. Are people talking about you?

That's what counts. Doesn't matter what they're saying. And lastly, we come to one of the newest additions into the Joanne, the scammer Housewives pantheon, Jen Shah.

Jen Shah, 47, and her assistant, Stuart Smith, 43, have each been charged with one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud in connection with telemarketing, through which they victimized 10 or more persons over the age of 55, which carries a maximum sentence of 30 years. And Shah is in trouble with the law but not with the show as she is currently a part of the filming cast. The cameras actually captured her arrest, and she is currently filming season 2 of The Real Housewives of Salt Lake City.

And while she very well may go to jail, she is also guaranteed to have an extremely central role and storyline on this upcoming season, gurus. And as we've discussed on previous episodes of TFD, the discrepancy in what committing criminal activity means for the wealthy versus the poor is an incredible societal problem. Simply put a poor person who commits a crime or is even accused of committing a crime is basically derailing their entire life, while for a person with the appropriate funds, it can simply be a little oops footnote on their Wikipedia page.

And this framing of legitimate criminal activity often morally despicable criminal activity on the show as just an opportunity for more attention, more focus and an eventual redemption arc, helps contribute to the normalization of the idea that wealthy people committing crimes are just making little sees. Because socioeconomic status and incarceration are heavily intertwined. People who enter the criminal justice system are overwhelmingly poor.

With two-thirds detained in jails reporting annual incomes under $12,000 prior to arrest. And after the completion of their sentence, the wages of formerly incarcerated people are often limited by their record. I'll link you guys to a video in the description where we explore in heavy detail this discrepancy between the criminal justice system for the wealthy and the poor.

But suffice it to say our perception of redemption for those wealthy enough to afford things like very expensive counsel, or being able to make bail is something that pop culture like the Real Housewives franchise is actively underscoring every day. We can forgive these crimes. While setting up the poor for oftentimes lives of condemnation where a criminal occurred, all that prevents any possible true redemption.

In the end, the Real Housewives franchise well to this day being one of my guilty pleasure shows ultimately represents an incredibly distorted but ultimately somewhat prescient view of our greater societal relationship to wealth, to crime, to public image, to the perception and the validation of women, and to many other cultural tent poles around which we are seeing some gains, but also huge steps backwards. And while I think we can watch anything and there's no such thing as purely trash television, I do think it's important that we watch these things while keeping a keen eye to how they may subtly or even subconsciously be altering the way we perceive the world around us and the way we perceive ourselves. What we post on Instagram, what we expect to be covered in our budgets, what we think when a wealthy versus a poor person does something, even what our jobs say about us.

All of this ultimately comes down to a question of perception. And with such powerful pop culture phenomenon as the Real Housewives often dictating what is considered aspirational, it's incumbent upon us that with all the Reality TV, we occasionally give ourselves a true reality check. As always, guys, thank you for watching.

And don't forget to hit the Subscribe button and to come back every Monday, Tuesday and Thursday for new and awesome videos. I'll see you later.