Real Housewives: Behind-The-Scenes Secrets

Rodolfo Martinez / ©Bravo / courtesy Everett Collection

We all love to indulge in a little reality television now and again, especially Bravo’s Real Housewives! The most intriguing thing about these shows is watching the cast live out their luxurious lives. However, it’s common knowledge that, while the show might be deemed ‘reality’ television, there’s a lot that goes into creating and producing a show that viewers will like and the process isn’t necessarily ‘authentic.’ We did some digging around and uncovered a contract for participants on The Real Housewives of New Jersey, as well as interviews with former housewives and producers from the shows who divulged little tidbits of information about what viewers aren’t privy to on-screen and what goes down when the cameras aren’t rolling. Here’s a list of 10 things that happen behind the scenes on the set of the Real Housewives:

15. One-On-One Interviews

Former housewife from The Real Housewives of New York City, Alex McCord used to record videos divulging details about what goes on behind the scenes on the show through videos released by gossip website RumorFix. She walks through the season week by week and gives additional information as to how the episodes would have been set up behind the scenes. According to Alex, the one-on-one interviews that happen in addition to the main footage are filmed once a month throughout filming. There are also a few that will be filmed after the show starts airing so housewives have a chance to kind of redeem themselves of how they might be appearing in the final edited footage.


14. Dress to Impress

Alex also said the women dress themselves and are not provided clothing by Bravo, which for these women is a lot of pressure because they want to portray a particular “high end” image of themselves and there’s a lot of showboating that goes on between the women. Despite their extreme wealth none of them can afford to indulge in that many outfit changes of designer clothing, shoes and accessories throughout the season or multiple seasons for that matter! Therefore, many of them will have deals with designers to borrow and return clothes.


13. Producers Stir the Pot

If producers aren’t satisfied with the amount or degree of authentic drama that is happening, they will do little things to create more on-screen chaos like when scenes are set up for cast members to interact, “producers might have told people different things about why they were meeting” said Alex. Phone calls are staged, for example when Aviva receives a phone call from Heather while she is with Ramona with an invitation to go on a trip to London in the episode, “London Calling,” Alex said it was not a coincidence at all. The producers knew Ramona wasn’t being invited on the trip, so they made sure Heather phoned Aviva while she was with Ramona to stir up some drama. In addition to this, scenes are staged when filming at a restaurants. These scenes will be shot during off peak hours like a lunch scene at 10 a.m. or 5 p.m. because then there will be less people who have to sign release forms and more room for the filming equipment, and producers can control the audio.


12. Perks From Producers

Alex points out the cast constantly has car service to drive them around, but in reality many of these housewives would take the subway, walk or cab. Using the car service while filming is definitely a perk, but it is also used to manipulate drama. When we see cast members showing up late to meet another cast member or to an event it could be at the fault of the producer who will deliberately delay these hired cars to piss off other cast members. She said, “The number-one way to annoy a reality TV cast member: make them wait. A lot of times, producers can tweak that and make cars late.” Another perk revolves around the destination trip that happens in each show every season. Alex said these trips are more often than not, paid for by producers. “If a trip is happening by the show, and it’s not season one, it is put together by the producers. Look at the credits. If you see ‘promotional consideration provided by…’ that means [the trip] was provided by the producers.” She also said that when the women go shopping the producers will pay for the things they buy in the stores. She said when producers set up a trip they will “pay, or you and the cast members, negotiate with the store separately.”


11. The Show is a Promotional Platform

The cast members on the show and the extras who appear are on the show are usually there to promote their business venture. This is just the reality. Many of these women are not just on the show for fun — they are there to promote their books, products, business services, whatever. Ramona is constantly promoting her Pinot Grigio, she puts her Tru Renewal skincare and True Faith jewelry in gift bags. Then we have Heather Thomson promoting her Yummie brand, Bethenny Frankel’s Skinny Girl, LuAnn de Lesseps fashion line, Sonja Morgan and her Sonja and the City brand. To name a few more in other cities it’s the same deal — Lisa Vanderpump promotes her two main restaurants Sur and Villa Blanca, Erika Jayne and her music, Tamra Judge and CUT Fitness, Teresa Giudice’s various books (cooking to her most recent memoir), Melissa Gorga uses her platform to promote her music, books and new fashion boutique and Kathy Wakile with her deserts. This list goes on and on.

Diane Bondareff/Invision for Skinnygirl Cocktails/AP Images

10. Cast Staging Scenes

Any fan of the Real Housewives show would remember when the ladies of RHONY went on a trip to St. Bart’s and LuAnn is seemingly caught in a messy situation that looks like she cheated on Jacques. In a video with Alex for RumorFix she said that the scene with LuAnn talking on the phone in French to her friend Cat was entirely staged by LuAnn herself. LuAnn is a veteran of the show, so if she wanted to have a private conversation she knew how to (go into the bathroom, muffle her mic and turn on the shower), but she didn’t. Alex also pointed out that she was speaking very slowly in French so that it would be easier for producers to make up subtitles and instead of emailing or having the conversation under wraps she chose to talk about it in full out loud. Alex said she believed LuAnn staged the whole thing to create a storyline for herself.


9. Lost Footage Episode

In one of her videos, Alex said that the “lost footage episodes” is a compilation of all those scenes that the producer and the network really liked, but couldn’t use because they didn’t move the story along or keep it moving toward their story arch of the season. It’s also shown when the season is done and is a chance for viewers to finalize their opinions of the cast members until the next season of the show.


8. Filming Next Season While Previous Season is on Air

In an interview with a former producer for The Real Housewives of New Jersey who worked on the show as a post production supervisor for 15 episodes during season 3 and 4 it was revealed that sometimes a previous season can taint the casts opinions in the next season which is what happened on RHONJ during season 4. That particular season had a lot of fighting between the Gorgas. The problem was that season 3 was airing and showing a lot of snarky comments or things that had been put to rest and then they’d go film an episode for season 4 and it would bring up past feelings about things which made it hard to put things to rest. With a revolving door of seasons that take months to shoot and even longer to edit, it most likely happens all the time which is why none of the housewives ever really put their issues with one another behind them.

© Bravo / Courtesy: Everett Collection

7. Housewives Getting Fired

The Watch What Happens Live host, Andy Cohen participated in a tell all interview and divulged some secrets about Bravo’s Real Housewives. He talked about what we all already kind of know, that if a housewife isn’t bringing enough drama to the show and allowing producers to capitalize on their viewership, they will get the boot from the show. We’ve seen housewives across the board in different cities come and go, or get demoted to recurring roles. Sometimes this is at their own discretion, but other times it’s a result of being fired. Andy revealed that on numerous occasions he’s gotten phone calls from housewives or their husbands who are crying and begging to get their jobs back! Sounds a little bit like desperate housewives…

Rodolfo Martinez / ©Bravo / courtesy Everett Collection

6. Filming the Reunion Specials

In a tell all interview with Real Housewives host Andy Cohen revealed that the reunion episodes we see at the end of each season are filmed over the course of an entire day. These specials can take up to seven hours to film, which explains why these housewives might seem like at times they are getting agitated, tired or never really seem to be looking forward to it. We only get to see a three-hour edited clip of the reunion, but in reality it takes many, many hours to film, not to mention the time to do hair and make-up.

Charles Sykes/Bravo

5. Extras Get No Compensation

According to a contract obtained by Radar Online for RHONJ, participants appearing on the show as “friends” or extras on do not get paid. They are agreeing to go on the show for their 15 minutes of fame. The contract they must sign strictly states that their appearance is “not a performance and is not (considered) employment.” Alex reinforces this when she discusses creative extras in one of her videos and states that people will usually come on to promote their business which is a risk because you never know how it will be portrayed in the end. The language on the contract says, “I hereby waive any and all rights I may have to any compensation whatsoever.” These participants must acknowledge they are “volunteering” their time and the footage might be “exploited throughout the universe at any time, in perpetuity…without any compensation to me whatsoever.” Many might wonder why people agree to such strict and unsettling conditions, but it is because the participants “acknowledge and agree that a significant element of the consideration I am receiving…is the opportunity for publicity.”


4. Strict Guidelines

This contract was put together by the production company behind RHONJ, Sirens Project 1224, LLC., and has some odd conditions like making sure the participant signing the contract agrees to not run for public office for 12 months after their last scene is shot, they are in good health and have no medical, physical or emotional conditions and that they will not take any medication or drugs while filming. Also, these women/men must agree to maintain their appearance at the discretion of the producers which includes clothing, accessories, costumes and makeup, but the biggie is to not disclose what goes on behind-the-scenes and to keep “in strictest confidence” prior to and after taping for the show. If the contract is breached (by any terms or conditions listed) they will be slapped with a minimum $50,000 fine! Ouch!


3. Producers are Allowed to Produce False Information

This contract for RHONJ leaves no room for negotiation. Participants appearing on the show who sign this contract are acknowledging they will be exposed to “public ridicule, humiliation or condemnation” and might be portrayed in a false light. The contract states, “The rights granted herein shall also include the right to edit, delete, dub and fictionalize the Footage and Materials, the Program and the Advertisements as Producer sees fit in Producer’s sole discretion.” From a legal standpoint, this basically means that when the show goes to air and the person doesn’t like the way there are portrayed or their footage is edited or “manipulated,” they cannot sue the production team if they feel injured or defamed by the “personal, private, surprising, disparaging and embarrassing” footage being broadcast.


2. Each Housewives is a “Character” on the Show

What really happened between Jacqueline and Teresa on RHONJ? The interview transcript said, “The main reason I was told, for the feud was because Jacqueline was offered several endorsement deals (including a teeth whitener and a real fruit-based alcohol), and Teresa organized deals for herself with similar products which turned off the company wanting to invest in Jax and the Housewives name.” The reason this information was not given on the show was because it would “taint” Jacqueline’s character on the show who is a loving mother. The producers didn’t want her to go from “housewife to celebrity endorsement maker because it wouldn’t feel organic.” In addition to this, it was revealed that in the final episodes of the show the producers try to tie up any loose ends with characters so that stories end on a high note or seem to be moving forward especially if that housewife won’t be returning again because that gives viewers a more settled feeling and like the time they invested in the entire season wasn’t just a waste.


1. Storylines are Produced Before Filming

At the start of the season the production team sits down and gives a general overview of where we want the storyline for the show to go. In the interview transcript, the former production supervisor said, “ALL of the wives are in on this. We discuss popular storylinese from the season before, storylinese that need tying up, and also ways of threading in new storylines that look organic to the story. Do you really think we spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on just following these women around with no plan? No, and the season and the storyline has a basic outline from the first day.”

Katherine G

Katherine G

Katherine is the Managing Editor for Health and Parenting, but she has a soft spot for entertainment. She loves binging shows on Netflix, reality TV is a guilty pleasure, and country music is her go-to playlist. When she's not writing, she's spending time outdoors, especially with her puppy Zoey!