Amanda Batula Is the Most Normal Girl on Bravo
Every good Bravo reality show has one iconic line fans will never forget. Vanderpump Rules has “It’s not about the pasta,” The Real Housewives of New Jersey has “Prostitution whore!*”—*Jersey accent optional—and for Summer House, the choice is obvious: “Summer should be fun! Amanda: not fun.”
The catchphrase, uttered by star Kyle Cooke during the show’s second season as part of a drunken fight with his co-star and then-girlfriend, Amanda Batula, is now printed on stickers, mugs, and onesies in online gift shops. It’s a gif and a meme. Fans shout it while partying and repurpose it for captions on Instagram (“COVID-19: not fun!”)
Five years later, the phrase still makes Batula cringe—“I prefer when people just say ‘summer should be fun’ and they leave out Amanda,” she says—but, like any enterprising reality star, she sanctioned the sale of sweatshirts by her own company (more on that later) with the phrase emblazoned on the back. The memory was a lemon, but she knows enough to turn it into profitable lemonade.
That roll-with-it spirit is how Batula, 31, tends to handle most things in her life, including becoming a reality TV star. For the past seven years, she’s been a key cast member of Bravo’s Summer House and its spin-off, Winter House—hour-long romps that follow a group of friends as they party, hook up, and fight in palatial vacation homes—and, in the process, has become fair game for public consumption. For a self-described introvert who’s “happiest horizontal,” it still can be jarring, especially because fame wasn’t something she’d ever chased.
“Reality TV was not ever on my bingo card for my life,” the New Jersey native and former L’Occitane graphic designer told me over lunch in New York last month. “I fell in love and sort of joined the show for that.”
That love, of course, is Cooke, her now husband and the show’s star since season one. A dynamic, divisive, boisterous personality, Cooke makes it easy to hide in his shadow, but Batula holds her own and, especially during the last two seasons, has emerged as a voice of (relative) reason on the show and has built her own fan base thanks to the fact she genuinely seems like a normal person who occasionally makes mistakes.
In the pantheon of reality TV stars, this is an anomaly. Yes, she’s had her moments, like last season’s meltdown when Cooke wouldn’t answer her many phone calls while out at the bars and she angrily smashed his things, but overall, her actions are child’s play compared to the level of unhinged we’ve come to expect from our reality stars.
Still, seven years into her reality TV stint and now in her 30s, Batula has mixed feelings on what it’s been like to live life so publicly. The good parts are really good—getting to spend so much time with friends on the show, building up an Instagram presence where she’s able to connect with more than 600,000 followers about anything from fashion to body image to marriage, and co-creating Loverboy, a successful ready-to-drink alcohol brand, with Cooke that’s been buoyed by their Summer House platform (Cooke told Insider in February the brand has made $38 million in sales since its launch in 2019 and is now sold in 44 states).
The main downside, not surprisingly, is the unrelenting online critics who fill Batula’s DMs with vitriol, picking apart her body, her weight, her relationship, and her character. Filming the show is fun, but when it airs? Not always fun.
“I say every year it takes 10 years off my life,” she said with a laugh.
It’s a classic tale. Boy meets girl at a New York City rooftop party. Boy and girl date. Girl goes to hook up with the boy while both in the Hamptons with friends. Then, girl finds a microphone she was previously unaware of behind her boyfriend’s bed because, it turns out, the TV show he signed up for films 24/7.
That was Batula’s introduction to reality television. She was in her mid-20s and had been casually dating Cooke for about eight months when he told her he would have to break it off because he’d signed up for a show on Bravo, and the producers were expecting him to be single. True love cannot be torn asunder though, even by the will of producers looking for steamy summertime hookups. Cooke continued to invite Batula over, when, she said, he thought the cameras weren’t rolling. When she showed up to a Fourth of July party at the house where the show was filming in season one, she says she was suddenly being mic-ed up and followed around by a film crew.
“They had me put my bags down on Kyle's bed five different times,” she says. “I don't know if I didn't do it right or they were getting different angles of it, they never used it. But my first experience of filming a show was like, I'm not good at this.”
More surprises followed when the show aired. She wasn’t exactly pleased to be unwittingly cast as the foil to Cooke’s attempts to have a “single summer” in the Hamptons (“I admit it, I have an Amanda problem,” Cooke said in one episode), but she bristles at the assumption some viewers still have—that she was just a booty call, not someone who had been dating Cooke for months. She also had to explain to her somewhat confused friends and family about how she ended up on reality TV.
This may have been enough for some women to call it, but Batula was willing to give the show a try. She loved Cooke, and also, may have not fully understood what she was getting herself into. When the producers asked her to audition for season two, she decided to go for it. (And yes, she said, she went through the full audition process, she wasn’t Cooke’s nepo baby.)
“I was quite naive,” she said. “I thought it was fun and partying and no drama. We were just gonna be madly in love and have the memories to look back on.”
At first, Batula says she struggled to fit into the show’s ecosystem. She was younger than many of the original cast members (Cooke turns 41 this summer, and his good friends and fellow original castmates Carl Radke and Lindsay Hubbard are 38 and 36 respectively), and couldn’t find her niche. A few casting shake-ups changed the game with the addition of Hannah Berner, Paige DeSorbo and later, Ciara Miller—all women closer to Batula’s age, and they became real friends both on and offscreen.
“I [had] just always felt like an outsider,” she said. “Once I had people my age and girls that I really connected with and that I related to a lot, I was able to kind of come out of my shell and separate myself from Kyle.”
She started having fun and having her own storylines. She became a source of style inspo for fans, which she describes as “tomboy” and often pairs trendy pieces like sheer tops or cropped tanks with baggy denim and is the queen of the Princess Di athleisure fit.
Sometimes though, being too real has its downsides. Cameras were there to document Batula and Cooke’s rocky moments. They fought hard while partying, one of which led to Cooke’s infamous “Amanda, not fun,” comment. In season three, Cooke admitted on camera that he had cheated. Viewers saw the emotional toll it took on Batula and their relationship. Yet the couple also got engaged on camera, and have reaffirmed their love for each other on screen. They work together on Loverboy and while that has also had its ups and downs, Batula said they’re in a great place, especially since adopting their two dogs (who also have become show stars).
But it’s hard to shake the fact that the Bravo internet machine is its own industrial complex with live Reddit and Twitter threads for every episode, discussion boards, Instagram accounts dedicated to Bravo content, and endless social media dissection. This content machine thrives on gossip, and Batula thinks it’s led to an increase in online bullying against her cast, which has taken a toll on her mental health.
One thing this gossip machine has spun out of control, she said, is a misperception of how bad her relationship is with Hubbard. Hubbard is a true, made-for-reality TV star whose brash and unapologetic personality has led her to clash with Batula and her friends on screen. Reading the social media commentary, you would think the two women hate each other, but Batula insists that’s not the case.
“Lindsay and I have always had our ups and downs, our relationship has never been black and white, always been complex,” she said. “But even though we've had our history, there's a level of respect for one another that goes deeper than any surface level drama or any rumblings on the internet..I think we’ll never have that best friend relationship, but that doesn’t mean that we can’t get along when we are together.”
But it’s hard to maintain a relationship with someone who, Batula says, the internet constantly pits you against. “I love how all of Twitter is collectively team Lindsay and Carl,” wrote one person on Twitter earlier this month. “Amanda, Paige, and Ciara really thought this season would turn the viewers against Lindsay and they were sooooo wrong. Loser behavior,” wrote another. “Amanda is a bitch and always looks for any excuse to hate on Lindsay,” said one.
Batula, frankly, wishes everyone would knock it off. After they’re done filming the show, usually everyone ends the summer on good terms. Then, the show airs, the gossip machine begins, and false narratives and rumors spread. Suddenly, things are tense between the castmates, and it’s all so unnecessary.
“I actually think that the fans have added to it,” Batula said of the perceived divide in the cast. “Really, [they] have kind of made it worse.”
Some mocking is harmless, like when viewers snicker at the fact Batula, Desorbo, and Miller spend a disproportionate amount of time laying in bed gossiping, calling them “bed bugs” and “Grandpa Joe,” but when it gets more personal, it can really hurt.
Last summer, when she was filming the most recent season, the internet began to speculate about how much thinner Batula looked in photos on social media. Batula was accused of having an eating disorder, being on drugs, and being mentally ill. She got nasty messages telling her she looked sickly, she looked like she was dying, that she was a bad role model for women.
Here’s the truth. Batula did lose weight, but it wasn't intentional. After her wedding, she and Cooke decided she would go off birth control in order to see what her natural cycle was like. They knew they wanted to have kids at some point in the next few years, and Batula had visions of herself dutifully tracking her ovulation, being super in tune with her cycle, and feeling fully in control and ready to try when the time came.
The reality was much more intense than the Earth Mother vision she had. As many women experience, her body went through major hormonal changes going off the pill, and her symptoms were more extreme than she expected. She broke out in cystic acne, her period stopped completely, and she started to grow extra body hair. Then, she said, she suddenly dropped a lot of weight. No matter how much she would eat, she couldn’t gain it back.
When she tried to open up about the experience on Instagram, she was accused of hiding her real issues. It was disappointing, Batula said. She thought we as a society were past that.
“There's no eating disorder and I think when people accuse me of that, it's harmful to people who have had food issues,” she said.
Losing her period was particularly terrifying. Batula hadn’t planned on talking about it on camera, but in an organic moment over wine with DeSorbo on Winter House, she opened up. They continued the conversation on Summer House, where Miller, a nurse, urged Batula to go to a doctor The conversations inspired the three friends to take a fertility test together, which they opened and discussed on camera. Batula is proud of the scene. How often do women have frank discussions about reproductive health on reality TV?
“We're all going through something with our menstruation journey…It's interesting to have three different women from three different backgrounds…and none of us are the same,” Batula said.
Batula also has been gratified by the many DMs she gets from viewers thanking her for opening up and talking about losing her period.“I have private support, I have quiet support, and I'm okay with that,” she said.
Batula also wanted to clear up that she is not trying to get pregnant anytime soon. She and Cooke are focusing on each other, and growing Loverboy. Batula always dreamed of being a creative director for a company like the one she worked at when she joined the show, and at Loverboy, she controls the look and feel of the brand, from the cans to the merch, like the aforementioned “Summer should be fun” hoodies. As for the future of Loverboy, Batula says she and Cooke hope to expand the brand to become a true lifestyle company, offering party packages, experiences, and events.
It’s been a creatively fulfilling project for them both, she said, and the exposure of being on the show has taken the business to heights they never would have been able to achieve without that platform. Cooke’s always been clear that he views Bravo fame as a way to build a brand, and Batula said she’s open to continuing on the show, even if every year she questions her choices.
“I say I like the filming part and being able to be with your friends and have these memories, it's a lot of fun,” she said. “I could do that forever..It's the social media and…the online bullying that makes it really difficult to want to keep doing this.”
Eventually, though, when they do decide to have a family, she envisions it will be time to pass on the torch to a new generation of Summer House. She would be willing to entertain a new show featuring the original cast and their lives, if Bravo was interested, but if they only wanted to revamp Summer House with a younger cast, she would be fine with that too.
“We're not letting the show dictate our lives or our future, we’re both not ready to have kids,” she said. “But when we are, that’s it for us, and that’s okay.”
It’s been a long, strange, exhilarating seven years. Maybe, Batula mused, everyone in our modern world of viral fame and influencers will have their fifteen minutes, and this is hers. Maybe she will continue being in the public eye, maybe she won’t.
For now, she’s proud of the identity she’s carved out for herself.
“I know who I am with my friends and my husband and my family and our people,” she said. “And whatever is being shown online, how people feel about it, is just a version, a small snippet of who we really are.”
Stephanie McNeal is a senior editor at Glamour and the author of the forthcoming book Swipe Up for More!: Inside the Unfiltered Lives of Influencers.
Originally Appeared on Glamour