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In this episode, Chelsea dives into the recent scandal surrounding Erika Jayne and husband Tom Girardi from the Real Housewives of Beverly Hills.

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

Sources:
https://www.latimes.com/california/story/2020-12-17/tom girardi-erika-jayne-rhobh-divorce

https://tasteofreality.com/9-things-we-learned-from-reading -erika-jaynes-new-memoir-pretty-mess/

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DAqptPPjvtc&ab_channel=WatchWhatHappensLivewithAndyCohen

https://people.com/style/erika-girardi-monthly-fashion-bea uty-budget/

https://www.vulture.com/2021/07/erika-jayne-owes-tom-girardi-l aw-firm-25-million.html

https://www.eonline.com/news/1282989/erika-jayne-shares -her-truth-about-divorcing-tom-girardi-after-being-pushed-out

https://www.today.com/popculture/erika-jayne-s-divorce-sham-p rotect-couple-s-money-lawsuit-t202405

https://www.womenshealthmag.com/life/a36752737/eri ka-jayne-net-worth/

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Hey guys, It's Chelsea from the Financial Diet.

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And I hope that everyone has their mad hatter hats on, because today we are spilling some damn tea. Now listen, I debated for a while making a video about this subject, because to be perfectly honest, part of what is so frustrating about the topic we're going to talk about today, is how much damn media attention it gets which is undeniably part of what makes these scandals such a ubiquitous thing in reality television, and in the pop culture at large. But I also think that it's worth taking a very TFT lens to this particular issue, because I often feel that while we talk about all of the drama, and the legalities, and the glitz and the glam, we don't often talk about the underlying wealth and class issues that play such a big part in these types of stories.

But what story in particular am I talking about? That is the scandal of Erika Girardi, a.k.a Erika Jayne. Most people who know her, would know her from her role on The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills.

She claimed upon her arrival to the show that she already had a robust primarily LGBT following from her career as a chanteuse. But I think anyone with access to Google was pretty convinced from day 1 that, no one was a fan of hers before. But at least for her first several seasons, she really ingratiated herself with the audience enough to amass an enormous personal following, even when compared to other popular Housewives.

She became one of the powerhouses of the franchise, and her name became a fairly ubiquitous. So much so that some of her subsequent songs, put out after her appearance on The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills actually did chart. But why are we talking about her today?

Well, in large part because, she is currently the focus of a scandal that is both enormous in scope. And I should say before getting into any of the details, that all of this is alleged. But what her estranged husband Tom Girardi, is accused of would represent the largest case of malpractice that a lawyer committed against his clients in the history of the state of California.

And there's much evidence to support the idea that Erika Jayne, was at least marginally aware of all of this stuff while it was going on. Especially given that she was such a huge recipient of a lot of this allegedly stolen money. But her scandal is also unique in that it's playing out car crash style in real time, as the latest season of her show The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills is airing.

And simultaneously, she's also very active on social media. And as of filming has done almost literally nothing, to acknowledge any of the actual victims in this story, except according to her herself. The scandal itself and how it's playing out on television, in social media, and in the zeitgeist generally, is incredibly fascinating, and I feel like says a lot about our culture, for both good and bad.

But before we get into what's happening now, we have to learn a little bit about who Erika Jayne actually is. Erika Jayne was born to a middle class family in Georgia, and she moved to New York to get her career going as a performer, which quickly ended up with her working at the club Shakers, in Lodi, New Jersey. And we should clarify here that Erika Jayne does maintain that she was never a stripper at Shakers.

But I think we should just all use our common sense to deduce what happens at a place called Shakers in Lodi, New Jersey that looks like this. Now that being said, we support a sex worker securing her finances in any way she chooses, but at least own it Erika. But after divorcing her first husband, she went from working at Shakers to wanting to shake up her life, oh my God.

She moved to Los Angeles at that time with hopes of making it on an even grander scale in the entertainment business. And that is where Erika met her future husband Tom Girardi in the late 1990s at Chasen's, the famed Beverly Hills haunt where he was a co-owner, and she waited tables in the bar. Jane, who was then known as Erika Chahoy, who was a striking, blonde 28-year-old with a young son and dreams of stardom.

Girardi, meanwhile was 60, hashtag, no judgment. And her future husband Tom, in addition to being 60 years old, was also an incredibly wealthy and powerful litigator, who is extremely well known for winning huge settlements against massive corporations. One of his environmental pollution suits brought on behalf of the residents of the Mojave Desert town of Hinkley, resulted in a $333 with PG&E that supercharged his career.

That case was such a success, that it later became very widely known through the film Erin Brockovich, in which a character inspired by Tom, was one of the featured roles. So here we find Erika the young, blonde beautiful wife of a very wealthy much older lawyer living in Los Angeles. If the story stopped there, it would be an incredibly familiar one, and I must reiterate.

I think that we shame gold diggers too much in this society, it is a job like any other. But a decade into her marriage, she had grown tired of the life of pampered princess wife. "There was nothing more I could buy," she wrote in her memoir. She feared being quote, "relegated to a life of shopping, sitting on a few charity boards of no consequence, and standing silently by my husband's side full of unrealized potential." So she decided to launch her second career as a risque club dance hit diva.

And obviously, if she wanted to hit the ground running on that front and break into a very competitive and saturated music market, she was going to need some help from her husband and his ample resources. She literally presented him with a spreadsheet of her desired production budget. And according to her memoir, Tom was quote "1 billion percent supportive from the get go." And his deep pockets made for advantages that few rookies could imagine.

Such as securing Michael Jackson's choreographer, a songwriter who had worked with Madonna Stevie Nicks and Britney Spears, and a costume designer for Lady Gaga and RuPaul. But even with all of that in her favor by 2015, she was ready to wind down that fledgling music career. Because as she put it in her memoir. "The return on investment wasn't really making sense anymore." But once again being the well-connected wife that she was, she tapped into and at the time star of The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills, Yolanda Hadid, then forced her to pull some strings to get her on the show, which she was.

As fellow Bravo historians like myself will remember, she started her career on the show as just a friend of Yolanda Hadid's. But shortly thereafter when Yolanda left the show, Erika remained and became one of the most prominent Housewives of all of the franchises, the student became the master. And part of what made Erika such a breakout star on a show already full of big personalities, was just to what extent she leaned into the, I'm rich and fabulous, and powerful dynamic.

Her TV persona was built on the tension between her marriage to a much older famous accomplished attorney, and her dance hall image as an oversexed cash obsessed pin-up. She threw herself back into her music launching and pushing out her videos, including one in which she literally sings, it's expensive to be me ayy, ayy, ayy, while writhing on a bed of money, we stand a lack of subtext. To the guillotine, I'm sorry I have to finish the video.

But come on, read the room lady, this is post 2008. OK now what's incredibly fascinating about all of this to me, and somewhat I think feeds into the borderline gaslighty dynamic that we're seeing right now, where she's being framed as a victim on the show that's currently airing and casting herself still as that super, sexy pin-up, while acknowledging nothing on her social media, is just the extent to which her self-promotion as this money, fame, and beauty obsessed monster, was rewarded on the show. The fact that she spent an alleged $40,000 a month just on personal glam, was treated as one of her fabulous quirks, rather than a slap in the face to working Americans.

She was largely praised for her obscene spending choices. And the power and age differentials in her relationship, were often framed if anything as a positive thing. While many clips from past seasons of the show are now being portrayed as him being a narcissistic, borderline, abusive older man taking advantage of her, at the time of airing in previous seasons, there May December romance, was often framed as something beneficial for her.

The show was clearly edited in a way to suggest that they genuinely loved each other, he was supportive of her. And their dynamic allowed her music career to prosper. The framing of her life and her relationship as aspirational went so far as to have entire dedicated segments on the live Bravo talk show, Watch What Happens Live, in which host and Satan himself Andy Cohen, goes through a list of various tasks, and Erika describes whether she does these things as a quote "normal or rich person and how much she actually spends on it." With Andy Cohen for example, asking do you fly in your private jet everywhere you go?

And Erika responding "no, I flew commercial here," to laughter and clapping from the audience. And in addition to framing all of these aspects of her life as inherently positive or aspirational, they were also fundamentally portrayed as attainable. We were led to believe that her husband's massively successful career as a lawyer, was allowing her to live this Uber lavish lifestyle, in a way that we could all feel good about.

Because the money was supposedly earned via him, taking on those big evil corporations on behalf of the little guy and winning just settlements. The viewers were clearly led to believe that these things were normal for the wife of a high flying lawyer to be able to afford. But as this house of cards has come falling down, many attorneys, including other ultra successful ones have come out and stated that, in no way is the lifestyle that was being portrayed on that show, something that could ever be reasonably expected for a litigator's wife.

Even one as successful as Mr Girardi was. And we were also led to believe that to some extent Erika Jayne's music career was part of what was adding to that lavish lifestyle. She claimed once verbatim on Watch What Happens Live that she quote "pays her own bills." It made for an incredibly powerful combination.

This doting, older husband with all of this previous success investing in her up front. And then her being able to turn around make her own success and to some extent return the favor. They were portrayed not just as having enough, but as having much more than enough, and doing it all legitimately.

But as anyone who has ever watched an episode Real Housewives knows. If it seems too good to be true, it's because it is, and probably because they're robbing burn victims. Around 2015, money issues we're already very much starting for Girardi.

He had to borrow money from high interest lenders. And one of them sued him, saying in a statement. "In the swirl of creditors, one young man stood out. Joseph Ruigomez suffered burns over 50% of his body during the 2010 pipeline explosion in San Bruno, when he was 19 years old.

Girardi's firm had negotiated a substantial and confidential settlement. But in the years that followed, his family concluded that the lawyer had misappropriated millions of their money. Stealing client money is a very serious allegation for attorneys.

A Chicago firm that had helped represent four Indonesian families with loved ones killed in a 2018 plane crash, kept calling about missing settlement money. Boeing had already transferred about $2 million for each plaintiff, so why hadn't the families received all their money, the Chicago lawyers asked." And while yes, it appears that in the specific case of allegedly stealing money from his own clients-- who were also massively tragic victims, it does not appear that Erika Jayne was just unwittingly standing by. The opposing counsel suing Girardi's firm, claimed that Jayne and her businesses received jewelry, luxury items, and lottery payments from Girardi Keese cases totaling $25 million as Jayne and Girardi case quote "conspire to conceal" the money during bankruptcy proceedings.

The opposing counsel is asking for an order for Jane and her businesses, EJ global, LLC, and Pretty Mess, Inc. Pretty mess indeed, to pay the $25 million to Girardi Keese, so that it can then be distributed to various creditors of the firm. And the new filing comes only a week after a judge ruled that Jayne could also be pursued for $11 million in collections by three of Girardi's embezzlement victims, related to money she allegedly received from Girardi Keese.

Now this is where it all gets messy, as if stealing from her victims was wasn't messy. Very shortly before the worst of this news broke about all of the alleged embezzlement and fraud, Erika Girardi filed for divorce from Tom. Now the idea that this was done before she had any knowledge of potential wrongdoings, just simply doesn't make sense as Girardi was getting sued well before she filed for divorce.

But it does line up very nicely with the absolute worst of the information, that could very directly lead to her being targeted actually came out in the news. And for everyone's timelines to get all sensed up here minority report style. What is currently happening is that, all of this news came out about the divorce filing, and all of the embezzlement, and fraud, and the victims and everything, in fall of 2020, which is when they were actively filming this currently airing season, that is airing as we speak, of The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills.

So what you see on the show, is the actual minute to minute playing out of all of this news breaking. And how it is being framed on the show. And how somehow insanely it's still being portrayed on Erika's own social media, is that she was simply the victim of a narcissistic, abusive older powerful husband who took advantage of her and prevented her from thriving or in some cases leaving when she wanted to.

The only thing we are meant to focus on in her rendition of things, is how she was taken advantage of and victimized by this man. At no point is anything about her potential culpability, responsibility, or even accountability addressed on this show. And I'm sorry, but I have to just go off road here for a second and say, they freaking tormented Denise Richards for months straight on national television about, potentially having sex with a woman.

But this we have to leave, and just let her tell her story the way she wants to, show me the justice. And, of course, it shouldn't be surprising that after a few weeks of their divorce being publicly announced, allegations soon followed that the divorce was only a sham to cover up transfers of assets and attempt to further embezzle funds and to keep them from being seized. Quote. "While Erika publicly filed for divorce this month, on information and belief, that divorce is simply a sham to fraudulently protect Tom and Erika's money from those that seek to collect on debts owed by Tom and his law firm the lawsuit alleges." These documents go on to state that quote, "the trustees special litigation counsel has confirmed that settlement funds were diverted to Erika." And additionally, the document states that Jayne's legal representatives were provided with quote, "irrefutable evidence" supporting the allegations leveled in the motion.

So either, this is the world's most convenient timing of a woman getting herself together and deciding to leave a bad man, or they knew what was coming and we're trying to get ahead of it. So that's where we are. And I'm sure that in the week between me filming this and this video airing, more developments will come as they're happening fast and furious basically every day.

But I think it's also an opportunity to meditate on how all of this is being presented and portrayed to us. And what Erika's previous framing in the context of the show can tell us about her current situation. I think we all know by now that reality television should always be taken with a grain of salt.

And when people portray themselves as having massively luxurious lifestyles, usually there is something going on behind the scenes that isn't totally on the up and up that helps them facilitate it. And while we all know that being wealthy in this country, almost automatically means a much, much fairer shake by the justice system, and a much better chance of being able to write your own narrative. When you add fame visibility and a public megaphone to talk directly to a national, television audience every week, the idea of holding a person truly accountable, the way our justice system in theory is supposed to operate becomes nearly impossible.

It should be noted that The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills is currently seeing its highest rating in years. And is seeing those ratings climb week to week, which is obviously due in no small part to people wanting to see how this story will play out. But part of what is allowing Erika to so infuriatingly paint herself as a victim, and continue to whistle while the world burns on her various social media accounts, and even allow some fans and co-stars to go along with her telling of events even while everything that we have access to in terms of information indicates that even if she didn't a while ago, she certainly knows now.

And is in no rush to give up all of her remaining luxury lifestyle habits. Is because of how her situation was betrayed all of the years prior to this scandal. The power dynamics of a relationship where one party is over 30 years younger and basically a million times poorer than their spouse, are inherently incredibly dangerous.

We talk a lot about financial abuse and dangerous financial dynamics on this channel. Because women can easily fall into relationships with men who have a massive level of control over their freedom and choices, by controlling the flow of finances. This enormous discrepancy between the two of them in previous seasons-- where he was older, he was facilitating her lifestyle, he would even frequently speak down to her on camera, was framed as almost sweet.

When in reality, if that really was the dynamic, and she was totally unaware of anything financial this whole time, and he forced her to get a sham divorce in order to further protect himself, that is only a reflection of a dynamic that has always been incredibly unjust, and dangerous since the beginning. But on the other hand, it's very likely that Erika could have been aware of a lot of these things over the past several years. She was asked about his prior lawsuits years ago on live television, and declined to comment.

And the fact that she's allowed to continue to portray herself as fabulous even under duress, is in part because her previous lifestyle of objectively obscene consumption, was always framed as the most interesting and relevant thing about her. Rather than recoiling in disgust from a woman yelling at us from a pile of money about how rich she is, it was treated as one of her most compelling personality traits. And rather than viewing her $40,000 a month harem of lackeys that did her hair and makeup every day, is something that we should not be encouraging on television, it fundamentally shifted the way that this show operates from a production standpoint.

Because now essentially all of The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills, are participating in a similar level of glam. Her lifestyle wasn't viewed as grotesque, it was viewed as the new standard bearer. So, of course, it makes sense after years of validating and encouraging this behavior, that she's going to continue to lean into the thing that people have always most responded to.

And what is the last thing that we're learning about how all of this is playing out, we're learning that the rich, and powerful, and beautiful, should get a microphone to spin the narrative every week, however they want to. The extent to which Bravo and Andy Cohen himself have been almost comically uncritical about this situation, and gratuitous in allowing her, her chance to tell her story on her terms, has been a little sickening to be honest. One would think that given the sheer scale of the fraud and the extent of the moral rot, might encourage the network even in an attempt to save its own ass, to hold this woman accountable.

But all we're learning and how the story is playing out thus far on the television show, is that this lawsuit for her, is just another fabulous chapter and how it's expensive to be her ayy, ayy, ayy. And with her receiving a reported half million per season on the show, it's quite likely that Bravo at this point is literally bankrolling her defense. Between our justice systems heavy tilting in favor of those who have the funds to defend themselves.

And our general American love affair with the con man, white color crime is something we have heavily normalized the forgiveness of in this society. But hopefully, as we see through the victims graciously telling their stories on documentaries, like The Housewife and the Hustler. We can start to understand that while white color crime might often not be violent in nature, its effects on people who have less resources in the dynamic are often just as devastating.

And perhaps this can lead us to be a little bit more critical about some of these truly over-the-top grotesquely glamorous lifestyles, before the House of cards comes falling down. And in the meantime, we can all do our patriotic duty and leave angry comments on her Instagram when she posts more pictures of herself in her underwear. 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. Chao.