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It’s no exaggeration to say that over its 13-season run, RHONY has redefined pop culture, with iconic moments like “I’ll tell you how I’m doing: Not well, bitch!” making meme history. But after ratings eventually sagged, Bravo put the show on pause (IYKYK) before recasting the franchise entirely for this new season, which premieres July 16.
The women responsible for resuscitating it are Jenna Lyons, the former president and executive creative director of J.Crew and current cofounder of LoveSeen; Sai De Silva, a creative director and blogger at Scout the City; Ubah Hassan, a model and philanthropist; fashion publicist and brand consultant Jessel Taank; marketing consultant Brynn Whitfield; and Erin Dana Lichy, a real estate agent and founder of the home renovation and design firm Homegirl.
Since the cast announcement, fans have gleefully devoured every social media tease while wondering if the reboot will become appointment television, taking over our feeds at Scandoval-esque levels. Based on this exclusive roundtable conversation with the stars over drinks at the oh-so-swanky Pebble Bar at 30 Rock, the answer is yes.
When the first Real Housewives of New York launched in 2008, the cast members didn’t know what they were getting into. But you all knew exactly what the show is. What made you want to do it?
Jenna: I’m not going to lie, I have a business. I’m doing this for a specific reason, to connect to people and have them care about who you are. Also, other than Ellen or Rachel Maddow, there’s not a lot of gay representation on TV.
Brynn: In 2021, I went to a psychic and was like, “Where is my soulmate? Where is he? When do I get married?” He told me I was going to be on Real Housewives of New York. I thought I just flushed $300 down the toilet.
Jessel: I’m the first Indian housewife ever to be cast in the franchise and I love to be the first. I’m Hindu and Ubah is Muslim and there are certain taboo topics for women that come from those communities. I really wanted to come and eradicate some of that stigma.
How will your version of RHONY actually be different?
Jenna: Where the franchise started was trying to capture this aspirational Upper East Side enclave. Nothing is wrong with that, but it doesn’t speak to all of New York. New York has always been a little grittier and cooler than the Upper East Side.
Erin: The women before us in New York, how do I say this nicely? They’re grown. I work like crazy. I have three kids. I balance it all. New York is filled with hustling moms and I think it’s something cool to show.
Sai: We didn’t get up and marry rich men and hang out on our yachts. We work. None of us have private planes. I mean, I wish.
Jessel: As women, you want to be supportive of one another. Putting other women down is so boring.
Ubah: There’s a lot of “shut the fuck up” and then there’s like “okay, I fucked up.”
Brynn: It’s that thing about New York: We’re not nice, but we’re kind.
Ubah: Nice is fake anyway.
Some of you knew each other before filming. But what were your first impressions of the women you had never met?
Sai: I thought Jenna was going to be a crazy bitch. But actually, she’s extremely sweet.
Brynn: I needed an outfit for an event and I texted Jenna and was like can I borrow something? She told me to come over and we’re going through her closet and at one point I stopped and was like wait, ten years ago me would be freaking out about this. I literally started going around touching everything!
Have any other Housewives reached out to offer advice or say hello?
Ubah: Ramona was so funny. I love Ramona because…she’s Ramona! We met at a lounge and she asks, “Are you married?” and I said no and she was like, “Forget it after this show.” You might think it was mean but it was hilarious. She’s fucking right. I tell boys now, you got to put a ring on it because my price is about to go up.
Brynn: I talked to Lisa Vanderpump, actually. I knew her prior to the show because her daughter is my good friend. She said be yourself and have fun. Just enjoy it.
Erin: Sai and I had lunch with Jill Zarin and her daughter Ally and then I ended up driving Ally to this party downtown, like now I’m her mother! She was great.
Sai: They all say the same thing: Be true to yourself because the audience will see right through you.
Jenna: Ramona wanted me to come to her daughter’s thing.
Erin: Joey Gorga called my husband Abe and the advice he gave was amazing: “You better watch your wife! Better make sure it doesn’t go to her head!” He was like, “Get all the guys drunk, get them trashed!” We were like, we don’t have that many guys.
Sai: I met someone who wasn’t very nice but I won’t say who.
Erin: I think she was mean to a lot of people.
Jenna: Yeah, she’s definitely....She’s salty.
Ubah: Chanel Ayan said to me, "Don’t go below the belt. With any human you interact with, don’t go to a place where you can hurt someone’s soul.”
Are there things you filmed that you’re nervous or anxious for people to see?
Brynn: I had a rough childhood growing up. I shared a lot about that. I’m not necessarily ashamed or embarrassed. But afterward, I would feel the need to call my brother, sister, and nieces and it really helped my personal relationships with my family.
Sai: I’m not a very vulnerable person and what I share online as a content creator is curated. I share what I want people to see. But with the show, cameras are following me around and I can’t curate it. I might cry, which is something I’d never, ever want to show.
RHONY has a messy history with diversity and inclusion. (The show didn’t have its first Black housewife until season 13. Other members have been accused of racist behavior on- and offscreen over the years.) Did you think about how to approach that when you were cast and when you were filming?
Sai: I don’t think we had to approach it at all because we just all come to the table that way. This is what our circle actually looks like.
Brynn: I’m biracial—my father’s Black and my mother’s white—but for me, I was thinking about diversity in the sense that I’m living in New York, I’ve been engaged, I’m 37, I don’t have children, I’m single, I grew up poor on welfare and I’ve created a fabulous life for myself on my own.
Ubah: In New York, your soul is free. For a woman who was born into a culture where women are suppressed, the idea that I don’t have a bodyguard in the middle of the night, that I can dress the way I’m dressing is amazing. It makes me want to cry. It’s literally heaven.
Can you describe the season in three words?
Ubah: Inspirational, stunning, fun.
Sai: Aspirational, entertaining, funny.
Jessel: Vibrant, feisty, and oh my god, it’s a runway.
“I’m 37. I rent. During the interviews, I kept being like, ‘Is this The Bachelorette?’”
Sai De Silva
“I love these women. Sometimes they make me sick. But that’s friendship.”
Erin Dana Lichy
“Only one of us has fake boobs.”
“I go from butter knife to machete.”
“There are so many types of beauty in New York.”
“New York is the Emerald City. It’s where dreams are made.”
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