The Rapid Rise and Fall of Jen Shah, and Bravo’s Problem With Hiring Grifters, Plus Open Post

by Ashlee Mason Comments

Happy Sunday, Blurbers! Welcome back to this latest installment of Open Post! For the last month, Reality Blurb has been trying out something new by giving you a weekly Open Post forum, where you get to talk about whatever you want, including shows we don’t normally cover on here! This is also a place to let your hair down and socialize, so please keep things cool with each other, and not all uncool

We’ve been mixing it up with the fluff, whether it’s a Top Ten list or a great Housewives moment that DEMANDS a trip down Memory Lane. This week, we’re going to do something a little different and address the plague that’s been hitting Housewives as of late. No, not Covid-19, sillies! I’m talking about a MUCH more subversive and corrosive disease that’s been hitting just about every franchise extra hard this year: COLD, HARD GREED. 

Photo Credit: Bravo Universal

When last week’s news broke about Jen Shah of RHOSLC getting arrested for allegedly conspiring to commit wire fraud and money laundering, my immediate reaction was, “OH COME ON! Another one, Bravo? Really?!” For over a decade, I’ve been watching Real Housewives for two reasons: aspirational porn and light-hearted schadenfreude. The combination of the two has made for some excellent TV-watching over the years, but somewhere down the line, the formula broke, and I’m finding myself increasingly ENRAGED when I watch these shows now. 

Back in December 2020, when Jen casually bragged that she spends around $50,000 a month, my eyes rolled to the back of my head as I thought, “This sounds like a lie. Jen is probably just upping the ante on Erika Girardi’s blusterous claim she spends $40,000 a month.” Whether Jen was telling the truth is moot at this point, because if the allegations are true, Jen and her “trusty” assistant Stuart Smith ripped off vulnerable, working-class, and most oftentimes elderly people of their hard-earned money for nearly ten years. So, she’s basically the lowest of the low.

How did we get here, Bravo? Why is it that so many families of VERY dubious means keep appearing on these shows? When did the network decide that parading criminals on our screens is an acceptable form of entertainment? Enter Teresa Giudice

Photo credit: Bravo Universal

Back in 2013, Teresa and Joe Giudice were charged with conspiracy to commit mail fraud, wire fraud, and bank fraud, making false statements on loan applications, and bankruptcy fraud in a 39-count indictment. We all know how that played out, so there’s no need to rehash the Giudice Saga. However, it’s important to point out that at the time, this was a novel experience for Housewives, and the audience was still under the impression we were watching mostly legitimately wealthy people. 

The RHONJ ratings soared as Teresa and Joe’s financial, prison and deportation woes unfolded in front of us. Against our best judgment, we invested our time in this story because it was captivating to see a woman that used to flash wads of cash on camera and call used houses “gross” get her comeuppance. Instead of just chuckling at something minor, like Vicki Gunvalson getting hit in the face by a football, we were enthralled by Teresa’s family getting torn apart as a result of her and Joe’s criminal behavior. 

Bravo, in their ever-insidious decision-making, chose NOT to boot the Giudices from their jobs (as any other employer would when employees commit crimes of moral turpitude), but rather doubled down on the spectacle of it all, and Teresa is still a gainfully-employed fame monster as a result. In essence, her reckless greed is being rewarded. Why did Bravo do that, you ask? Well, you know why. It makes them lots and lots of MONEY.

Teresa’s storyline begs us to wonder if having financial troubles up to your ears is a prerequisite for potential Housewives’ hirings. How else can we explain Lynne Curtin’s daughters receiving an eviction notice on camera? Or Taylor Armstrong selling her wedding ring to pay off her deceased husband’s creditors? Or how about the numerous bankruptcies, foreclosures, and tax issues that have regularly popped up over the years (examples: too many to name)? 

Financial issues are a reality of life for most, but for a franchise that spotlights the lives of rich people, I expect to see actual wealthy lifestyles, and not, y’know, low lives using smoke and mirrors to put on the pretense of being rich. Dorit Kemsley may think she and Peekay are doing a fine job of presenting real wealth, but we’ll always have this to prove otherwise:

This video reminded me that Bravo’s practice of exploiting wannabes has evolved over time. Instead of simply celebrating these grifters, the network now seems to be PROTECTING these grifters. If Teresa’s entire journey of frauding and going to prison was recorded for all to see, then WHYYYYYY didn’t Bravo include the footage of Dorit being chased around The Bahamas by a creditor? A scene like that seems like Bravo catnip, no? So what gives? And what gives with this chick? 

Photo credit: Bravo Universal

As a refresher to those who’ve been living under a rock for the last six months, Erika Girardi’s husband Tom has been accused of stealing tens of millions of dollars from the settlement funds of widows and orphans of plane crash victims, pipe explosion victims, and cancer victims over the period of nearly two decades. The legal drama is still unfolding, but many signs point to Erika being involved with the scheme, since more than $20M was allegedly funneled to Erika’s entertainment company. Regardless of her level of involvement, can anyone consciously watch this music video without feeling EXTRA SQUICKY? 

Again, I ask, how did we get here, Bravo? Back in June 2020, during the Black Lives Matter protests in the wake of George Floyd’s murder, Bravo fired several cast members of Vanderpumps Rules after racially insensitive remarks and actions they made in the past were uncovered. “Bravo stands in solidarity with the Black Community. To be silent is to be complicit.” That’s a noble sentiment (even if it came way too late for many of us), but where does Bravo stand on stealing money from plane crash victims’ families? Or elderly people? Where does the buck stop for Bravo? Isn’t being silent to these victims’ pain and loss being… complicit? 

In an even more perverse twist, Erika, Andy Cohen, production, and most of the RHOBH cast are pushing the narrative that Erika WON’T HOLD BACK in talking about her divorce to Tom, which… I mean, c’mon, is that really what the audience is interested in? Why is it that I’m feeling like Bravo is deliberately glazing over Erika’s misdeeds in the same way they did with Dorit? Why aren’t the sponsors speaking up with “Enough is Enough” when we need them to? Oh, that’s right: COLD, HARD GREED. 

Alrighty! Enough of the heavy stuff. Let’s party! If you ever have any suggestions for topics on Open Post, please send them to [email protected]!

TELL US – Do you think Erika Girardi and Jen Shah should get fired, or do you want to see how it plays out on camera? What shows are you watching?