Real Housewives Get Rich

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Recipe for confusion: changing the name of your beauty brand just as consumers were becoming aware of the fact that you even had a beauty brand to begin with.

But then again, when you have aspirations of becoming a billion-dollar entity, as Real Housewife of Salt Lake City Whitney Rose has boldly proclaimed, shifting from the head-scratching, no-one-knows-what-it-means Iris + Beau to Wild Rose Beauty actually makes some semblance of sense. After all, there are only roughly a gazillion new skincare brands launched every day; better to trade on the name-recognition you’ve built with a year-plus on the Bravo network under your belt.

Ever since Bethenny Frankel offloaded a chunk of her Skinnygirl brand – specifically her pre-fab low-cal margarita mix – to Jim Beam Suntory for an estimated $100 million in 2011, Real Housewives from every franchise (Orange County, Beverly Hills, New Jersey, Dallas – even Potomac, for pete’s sake) have been shilling the merch in the hopes of getting crazy-rich.

Sure, these ladies are theoretically already wealthy. But given that one Wife has already gone to prison for mail, wire and bankruptcy fraud, and two more are currently teetering on the precipice of possible incarceration for shady money maneuvers, there’s a lot of financial fronting going on with these women.

Housewives Cashing In

In an era in which platform is everything, there’s no question that Wives have a waxed, gym-toned leg up on anyone starting a beauty brand who isn’t on television.

And yes, there have been a few instances of Wives with zero prior beauty industry experience faring pretty well with a product here and there. Case in point: La’Dame fragrance by Potomac star Karen Huger, which was launched in 2018 and recently got scooped up by Bloomingdale’s.

Luckily for Huger, she’s an OG Potomac cast member who has been on the franchise since its 2016 inception and continues to have ample opportunities to plug her products. (In addition to her signature scent, Huger also has a line of wigs.) Conversely, one could argue that the reason former NYC Wife Kristen Taekman didn’t strike gold with her Pop of Color nail lacquer line was because she was in and out in a flash.

In other words, no show, no sales. That leads to a lot of product-launch pressure for newish Wives, like Rose, with dollar signs in their eyes. And it can also prompt even more established Wives to pivot left, right and center. As long as you’re still collecting a Bravo paycheck, if one beauty line doesn’t go anywhere, just try another.

Throwing Skincare Spaghetti at the Wall

RHONY legend Ramona Singer is a prime example of the product pivot. When her Tru Renewal skincare range, which made its debut in the show’s 2011 third season, flopped, she kept the dream alive. And after a long, televised buildup – she began teasing her return to the beauty arena in 2018 – Singer’s Ageless by Ramona anti-aging line launched in 2019.

The sizeable gap between the time when Singer started talking up Ageless and its actual debut was enough to prompt at least one fellow co-star to call BS on the venture. “It doesn’t exist,” Frankel tweeted about Ageless in 2018. “And as a business woman, I am done allowing people to pretend business is easy or have pretend parties to launch products that are fairytales. Watch cartoons if you want fantasy.”

Singer stood firm in the face of Frankel’s scathing Twitter tirade, and when her new line finally made it to market, she blamed the delay on her perfectionism and desire to find the slam-dunk perfect scent for her first product, Ageless by Ramona Skin Renewal Serum. “It’s a refreshing smell; like it’s such a universal scent,” Singer told Page Six Style. “So that took a long time to get that really natural, healthy, citrusy, refreshing fragrance.” If at first you don’t succeed, throw skincare spaghetti at the wall to see what sticks.

Making Bank Despite the So-Called “Bethenny Clause”

Given the staggering amount of success Frankel has had, it’s surprising she’d waste her breath – or her tweets – on other Wives’ attempts at creating and sustaining a lucrative product or two. After all, she’s the only one who’s been allowed to keep every dime she earned on the products she used RHONY to make famous.

Prior to the very first season of the show (fun factoid: back then, it had the working title “Manhattan Moms”), Frankel decided that in exchange for the paltry $7,250 salary she would earn for the entire first season, she would remove the clause in her contract mandating that Bravo would get a cut of any product she shilled.

A lifelong hustler, Frankel already had the healthy-treats brand BethennyBakes in place when she joined RHONY. But viewers watched the Zeitgeist-y Skinnygirl line unfold in front of their very eyes in real time, and turn the scrappy, once-struggling personal chef and entrepreneur into a very wealthy woman.

Determined to never let Frankel’s level of success happen again without getting a chunk of the profits, Bravo – and probably every other reality show network – began instituting what’s known in the industry as the “Bethenny Clause.” Sure, you can use the show to sell your merch, but we’re all in this together.

And evidently, that network profit cut isn’t static; if a Wife’s product really takes off, she may have to fork over a bigger piece of the pie in exchange for ongoing air time.

But if you’re a big enough reality television star, and you’re creating enough ongoing drama to remain a fan favorite and keep your day job, chances are you’ll still come out on top. As long as you stay out of prison, that is.

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