By Andy Cohen, Glamour magazine
I love my job. As executive vice president of original programming and development at Bravo, I oversee the production of every episode of every single one of our shows. And as the host of Watch What Happens: Live and the Housewives reunion shows, I get to speak to the casts directly and ask them the questions we're all dying to know the answers to. The Housewives are real women with real problems, real highs and lows-people might think they're acting or playing to the camera, but they're truly not.
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They're just like you. It just so happens that their hair is blonder and their boobs are bigger than most. Underneath the makeup and bling are people women relate to-you like them or love them or hate them or laugh or cry with them or roll your eyes. My front-row seat to the Bravo drama has taught me a lot about the psychology of women (and men!). So I'm here to share what I've gleaned about life, friendships and love from those Housewives, little dogs and opinionated matchmakers. Enjoy!
"I want it all. I want success. I want love. I want my marriage perfect. And it's not." -Vicki Gunvalson, The Real Housewives of Orange County
What I've learned about relationships: Talking matters!
I look at love and marriage through the lens of The Real Housewives of Orange County. The biggest thing I've learned is that you've got to communicate. For example, take Vicki and Donn Gunvalson, who split up last season. I think part of their problem is that the two of them never really heard each other or met halfway. She needed to be listened to, and he needed to be validated. But that never happened, and as Vicki said, her love tank just wasn't full.
And another lesson: You need to be able to be your own person and be a full woman outside of the relationship-you can't let it be the only defining thing about you! If you look at Orange County, some of the wives are not given any freedom or independence within their relationship. This past season there was an episode in which Alexis Bellino went to a dinner party without her husband, Jim, and she had a breakdown because she didn't know how to enjoy it without him. With Tamra and Simon Barney, she said he was very controlling of her, where she was going and what she was doing. Relationships like that are unsustainable.
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But as a counterpoint, look at Alex McCord from the New York cast. She's unapologetic about how she and her husband, Simon, do everything together, and I know she still considers herself to be very modern and independent. For some women, it works; for others, it doesn't.
"I don't care who or what you are. If you treat women like crap, you're a narcissist, you're a bragosaurus, you're out." -Patti Stanger, The Millionaire Matchmaker
What I've learned about dating: Keep it classy, girls
Matchmaker Patti Stanger's big rule for women is that you can't go in [pointing to mouth] and you can't go in [pointing to crotch] until you're exclusive with someone. She's basically saying, "Have some class, ladies!" I think that is probably good advice if you're really looking to land someone. That time together not "putting it in" allows you to get to know him. Some women on our shows ignore this advice, and a lot follow it-for all their big boobs and hair and makeup, most of our Housewives are a pretty traditional bunch sexually. And you know, women deserve to be treated like queens. It's OK to be wooed! One additional note: Romance doesn't have to end when you get married. On Bethenny Ever After, Bethenny Frankel and Jason Hoppy still have date nights. You can really feel the sparks when they go out alone, and I think that's healthy for a relationship.
"A year ago, Jill and I were inseparable…. Things change." -Bethenny Frankel, while on The Real Housewives of New York City
What I've learned about friendship: Jealousy kills
When I think about friendship, I think about Jill Zarin and Bethenny Frankel of The Real Housewives of New York City. They were so fun for the first two seasons-like Laverne and Shirley-but then, when Bethenny became very successful (and didn't necessarily need Jill for as much support), it seemed as if Jill couldn't deal. Fellow Housewife Ramona Singer said their friendship was overcome by "Jillousy." Jill and Bethenny have not spoken since the reunion show last year, and I don't think they will ever be friends again.
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My takeaway is that if you find yourself in an unbalanced relationship with someone, in which one of you is really envious of the other for whatever reason, you should probably go ahead and extricate yourself from that friendship. I see jealousy all the time among the women in Orange County, I see it in Atlanta, I see it everywhere. It's human nature! But it's not just women who are jealous-men can be too, but they show it differently. At the very root, it's penis envy, and then you go from there!
"I have an implant in my upper lip…. My husband never complains." -Taylor Armstrong, The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills
What I've learned about beauty: Less is more
From my time spent with dozens of Housewives, this much I know to be true: Women should stay away from lip fillers. I've yet to see one Housewife whose lip fillers worked out well. I think a few of the Orange County ladies dabbled in fillers after seeing them on the Beverly Hills show, but let me just say, I don't think they got a return on their investment. I also think that face-lifts and brow-lifts can be jarring. I've told Kim Zolciak of The Real Housewives of Atlanta that people think she's way older than she actually is because of her makeup and all the work they think she's had done. Plastic surgery can age you! Also, I do not love breast implants. I would say 90 percent of the Housewives have them, and I think a majority of those implants look like they're just, like, placed there. I like natural-looking breasts. And in terms of makeup, less is more. Most of the Housewives overdo it.
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It's funny: You'd think that their getting plastic surgery means that these women are somehow insecure or don't like their body, but I've found the opposite to be true. They feel great about them-selves and are confident, but they just have specific ideas about how they want to look. So they wear their fake boobs or face-lifts as badges of honor. I know, I know-for a gay man, I have a lot to say about female beauty.
"Do you guys experiment? Do y'all do extra spice-it-up-type stuff?… What is your freak number?" -Kandi Burruss, The Real Housewives of Atlanta
What I've learned about sex: Dish, dish, dish!
There isn't much sex on our shows, but Kandi Burruss of The Real Housewives of Atlanta is very sexually explicit. And I respect the fact that she has such an open dialogue about sex, especially with her girlfriends. I think it's important for women to talk about sex with one another, because not only is it fun and a bonding experience, but that's also how they become more comfortable in the bedroom. And humor is hot! Look at The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills' Lisa Vanderpump and her husband, Ken, who joke about how they have sex only three times a year. They seem to be very flirtatious about it, and of course, I'm pretty sure they have sex more than three times a year!
"Obviously I made a mistake wearing my Louboutin shoes…. I should have worn flats. But flats to me is like a disease." -Lisa Vanderpump, The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills
What I've learned about style: Be a peacock!
I've got to look to Lisa Vanderpump again for this. She dresses girly and wears pink and is proud of that. If that's who you are, go for it. Be a peacock, just like a Housewife! That said, I do think that you should try to dress your age-and this is something that many of the Housewives struggle with. For inspiration, take Padma Lakshmi of Top Chef. She always looks elegant, and because her clothes aren't supertight, she manages to eat a lot during the course of the show without appearing bloated! Also, Rachel Zoe-what can you say? She dresses totally for herself and projects an air of confidence that's attractive to the people around her.
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Back to the Housewives', well, peacock-ness: I think that it's a big part of the appeal of the shows. Women are supposed to be reserved and polite, but these ladies aren't. Viewers get a lot of pleasure from watching them preen and yell and wear insane outfits. It's liberating to see these women give themselves permission to be so out there. We could all use a little more of that in our lives.
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Photo Credit: WWD