The sun has set on one other BravoCon — a Las Vegas weekend of glamorous Bravolebrities and their onstage confessionals.
But it surely must have been called TragiCon.
All typical, and yet this 12 months’s glitzy fan experience was also staged under the pall of a “reality reckoning.”
It began in August, when former “Real Housewives of Latest York City” forged member Bethenny Frankel called for reality stars to unionize in a fight against what she has positioned as Bravoa’s mistreatment and exploitation of talent — a theme that was hammered home in a recent Vanity Fair article.
The magazine spoke with insiders who allege racism and manipulation from producers to pursue feud-fueling storylines. There are also allegations of castmates being plied with booze because the gasoline that kept the monster truck going.
Former “Latest York” housewife Leah McSweeney told Vanity Fair she relapsed in her addiction right before her first season; when she tried to downplay it for the cameras, she claimed, a showrunner warned her, “This s–t is boring as hell” and “You higher turn it up.”
So she did, getting so drunk that she stripped right down to her thong and threw a lit tiki torch: “Hurricane Leah.” A source told Page Six that McSweeney plans to sue over her treatment.
“She wants a trial. She wants [Bravo execs] in front of a jury,” the source said.
And yet Andy Cohen, the genius behind Bravo’s reality empire, has brushed it off.
“I live in the enjoyment that these shows bring people, and that’s the place that I’m at,” he blithely said at BravoCon when asked concerning the “reckoning.”
But how did Cohen not see this coming?
He’s, in spite of everything, the Dr. Frankenstein of reality television — the daddy of a military of fame-hungry monsters who’ve now returned to torment their creator.
Cohen doped his monsters up on televised pugilism, rewarded them for bad behavior, and seemingly thought that he would at all times have his hand on the switch.
Why? Because his creations were so hungry for fame and validation.
Well fed, the Bravolebrities have grown infinitely stronger. They’ve their very own popular podcasts, successful product lines and, yes, their very own voices — they usually’re not afraid to make use of them.
(Frankel, who sold her Skinny Girl food and alcohol brand for a reported $100 million, has 3.3 million instagram followers — one million greater than Bravo.)
It’s far different from the 2006 advent of “Real Housewives,” which began in Orange County, California. Before social media blurred our unique regional quirks, it was a revelation: a voyeuristic peek into a elaborate gated community of female status hunters in pursuit of materialism.
The successful formula quickly expanded to Latest York, where we met a gaggle of monied, striving Upper East Siders who were fourth-string benchwarmers within the Big Apple socialite scene. Then got here the fabulous forged of Atlanta — self-appointed machers in Hollywood of the South — and, in fact, Latest Jersey’s fiery Italian Americans.
With their specific aesthetics and colloquial offerings, the originals made up an enchanting sociological project complete with catchy tag lines.
It was a delicious guilty pleasure of defining pop-culture moments. Who will ever forget table-flipping Teresa Giudice screaming “Prostitution whore!” or NeNe Leakes ordering “Close your legs to married men”?
The one thing all these unique entities had in common? A thirst for fame.
Because the universe grew to incorporate “Vanderpump Rules,” “Southern Charm” and my personal favorite, “Below Deck,” we witnessed each forged member’s progression from civilian to Cohen’s ideal Bravo archetype: latest hair, latest cheeks, latest boobs and, sometimes, an entire latest face. And most definitely a latest attitude.
The network became their business with their paychecks and standing dictated by their willingness to behave boldly — and badly.
They suffered for his or her art: stints in federal prison, family feuds, divorces, vicious (and, often, drunken) cat fights.
Forged members who didn’t maximize their personal drama were systematically swept away by reason of sanity.
One anonymous housewife told Vanity Fair how, as a toddler, she had written in her diary that she hoped to realize “public recognition” — possibly on “Jeopardy.”
As an alternative, Bravo quenched her thirst and made her crave more at the identical time.
“Have I been put through the wringer? One hundred percent,” she said. “Still higher than my worst day withering away at a lifetime of quiet desperation.”
Those are the people Cohen has recruited. And he figured he could keep their egos on a leash? Ha!
None of those stars are victims, in fact. Craven and willing participants, they’ve maximized their take care of Frankenstein — and now they need a refund.
Possibly reality television, like other industries, is just growing out of its Wild West phase and facing regulation.
However the reckoning will proceed.
Live by reality television, die by reality television — that goes for its almighty creator as well.