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the good, the bling, and the ugly
gawking at the real housewives of atlanta
by alex b (@Lexistential)

At this precise moment in time, I'm bitter. I'm annoyed that I'm not black, married to a celebrity athlete, divorcing a celebrity athlete, or just plain subsidized by some anonymous figure who calls himself Big Poppa. I'm likewise pissed off that I don't have a lifestyle that involves a 15,000-square foot house, a thousand pairs of designer shoes, or the ability to mooch a $68,000 gas-guzzling Cadillac Escalade that could hog a lane and a half. And, I would love to have a big fat box full of Christian Dior goodies sent to my house so I can pick out what I like at home and send the rest back.

Normally, I don't drool over the spending habits of the fabulously rich or real estate that copies "Cribs", but I've got antics of "The Real Housewives of Atlanta" on the brain. Since the economy's doing swirlies in toilet bowls across the nation, I feel slightly guilty for tuning into the extreme affluence and finger-pointing attitudes of Shereé, DeShawn, Nene, Kim, and Lisa, but just as I couldn't skip WWF matches or "Dynasty" as a child, I can't resist them now. As it is, watching any of the "Real Housewives" seasons is guaranteed entertainment for the sniping alone. But, unlike the Botoxed bunnies of the O.C. and stiletto-sharp socialistas of New York, the Atlanta ladies appear to have more bling for the boob tube. They're perfectly okay with the rocks that they've got— and expect people to know it.

So, even though they're not really housewives, they're already getting bickered about all over the Internet, have a drinking game named after them, and are on my DVR. I can't wait to see how Bravo's latest bunch hype themselves up on the third installment of "Real Housewives"; I'm willing to bet that this season's show is going to be an even guiltier pleasure than "I Love New York" or "Flavor of Love".

Hell, if Jane Austen had lived long enough to hang with Ludacris, she'd be up all over these girls, too.

The Austen-esque happy ending of marrying very, very well is reflected on the show — two of the "Real Housewives" are enjoying wedded bliss to professional athletes. Housewife Lisa Wu Hartwell is married to former Atlanta Falcon (and current Oakland Raider) Ed Hartwell, while DeShawn Snow is the wife of NBA Cleveland Cavalier Eric Snow. Both have lavish lifestyles spell m-o-n-e-y with extra dollar signs; neither appear to have their money of their own apart from their husbands' wealth. Though the latter isn't polite to bring up in dinner conversation, it seems irrelevant in the face of Hartwell's basement bowling alley, or the specially built private beauty salon located in one of Snow's numerous rooms in her 15,000-square foot estate.

Though both are married to professional athletes, Lisa Wu Hartwell and DeShawn Snow seem to be different as football and basketball. Formerly married to singer Keith Sweat, Hartwell appears happy to work in spite of being well-funded; she frankly tells viewers, "If it doesn't make me any money, I don't do it." Hartwell doesn't bash her fellow castmastes on the show. On the contrary, she seems hell-bent on devoting her airtime to her numerous business ventures, which include a real estate company, a jewelry line, and a baby clothing brand. Upon holding a trunk show at her mansion and preparing to network with buyers for her jewelry collection — which she actually makes on the air with husband Ed and their friends — she asks, "Who goes out without business cards? Who does that?"

In contrast to Hartwell, De Shawn Snow doesn't carry on like a hyperkinetic Energizer Business Bunny. Though she runs a personal foundation, keeping her comfort level easy with an estate manager and "a proper staff" seems to be a bigger priority on the show. The soft-spoken Snow also seems to have a few smug airs; she states that "she believes she was always destined for greatness," without offering anything else but her marriage to qualify her declaration, and also defines herself on her website to be "a personal blessing" implicitly sanctioned by God. Still, out of all the ladies, she is the peacemaker, and mediates catfights in the midst of mispronouncing quite a few words — to Snow, the South of France is the "Soufofrance", jewelry is "joowurry", and Monte Carlo is "Marney Carlo."

Marrying a professional jock doesn't appear to be the only means of reaching lucrative living on "The Real Housewives of Atlanta" — divorcing one is just fine, too. Former boutique owner Shereé Whitfield is on the tail end of a divorce battle with Atlanta Falcon Bob Whitfield. The money she spends doesn't appear to be hers, either. Still, Whitfield tells viewers that "people are intimidated by [her] success." In addition, she's expecting "a lump sum, seven figures" divorce settlement to maintain her lifestyle — "if not better."

Whitfield is undoubtedly the show's most overt diva, and provides more than a handful of antics to prove it. When she takes a break from stirring up drama about fellow castmate Nene, she insists on exclusivity while purchasing a specially Botoxed designer bag and goes around aksing people why they don't talk to her if they want to talk to her. Whitfield owns over a 1,000 pairs of designer shoes, and even throws birthday parties for herself that include serious security details and a $1,200 Louis Vuitton birthday cake. But, beyond pronouncing herself a queen of style and horrible elocution, the most noticeable thing about Shereé Whitfield is that she's an aspiring fashion designer that retains an entourage complete with publicist and personal assistant. However, she doesn't seem to have the ability (or humility) to actually sew her own samples; as a result, she holds a fashion show without any clothes.

Unlike the rest of her counterparts on "The Real Housewives of Atlanta", lone white cast member Kim Zolciak isn't affiliated with the NBA or NFL. Wearing an architecturally impressive blonde hairpiece with extensions, Zolciak appears to live on the arm of a mysterious off-camera benefactor, one referred to on the show as Big Poppa; married real estate magnate Lee Najjar and reknowned producer Quincy Jones are both rumored to be him. Of all the ladies, she appears to resemble a trophy girlfriend or a subsidized mistress.

Unsurprisingly enough, Kim Zolciak doesn't work. Aside from holding glasses of chardonnay, the most heavy lifting she appears to do is with a checkbook, shelling out $18,000 for her eleven-year-old daughter's birthday party (complete with $2000 birthday cake), $14,000 for a diamond cuff bracelet, and $68,000 on a Cadillac Escalade. She is also shown shopping for Dior at home and posing for professional pictures without any actual career to use them for. However, aside from shopping and spoiling her daughters, Zolciak toys with becoming a country singer; the show depicts her working with music producer Dallas Austin, a connection made possible through Big Poppa. But upon being confronted with any hard work for her aspirations by a vocal coach, Zolciak rears up; she becomes upset at being told she doesn't know what she's doing with her voice, and huffs, "Just what do I need to know about music? I'm a singer." Unfortunately for Zolciak, she needs to know more, for a terrific singing voice (and the ability to spell "cat" as anything but "k-a-t") seem to be well-hidden secrets viewers can't detect.

The last and final real housewife isn't a sports spouse or possible mistress, but is simply a businessman's wife. Cast member Nene Leakes is married to husband Gregg, a real estate developer. Unlike Shereé Whitfield or DeShawn Snow, Leakes doesn't shop extravagantly. Instead, Leakes's motherly duties and emotional heart dominate her airtime; she is shown touring Clark University with son Brice, starting up her own Twisted Hearts foundation to battle domestic violence, and learning that her father isn't her actual biological parent. But, like any other mother in the "Real Housewives" universe, she insists her son's dorm room needs a new paint color and plasma TV.

Nene Leakes is additionally more distinct than the rest of the housewives with a personality that rivals Lucille Ball's buffoonery. Loud-mouthed, brash, and telling it like it is, Leakes is easily the class clown on "Real Housewives", whether by singing truthful drunken rips about Kim Zolciak's recording career out loud ("Dallas Austin is helping me because of my mannnn") or cracking that DeShawn Snow wouldn't know where to find the kitchen knives in her own 15,000-square foot home. She seems to take herself the least seriously, and laughs with the other housewives— and at them, especially to Zolciak's and Shereé Whitfield's detriment. With Anderson Cooper as one of her fans, Leakes continues to draw viewers in and gives "Real Housewives" a hilarious edge.

So, I'm over my bitterness. I'm fine with the fact that I'm not about to suddenly turn black, rich, or subsidized by some mysterious backer who likes my weave or feels like giving me a singing career I can't earn all by my little old self. Sure, the majority of them embarrass and offend real housewives in Atlanta, but it doesn't matter. I'm too far in to quit now; plus, Lisa and Nene are pretty cool. And, I want to see if DeShawn keeps mispronouncing words while buying herself bling, if Kim learns to actually sing in tune, and if Shereé can actually do some work on her fashion line instead of bitching to her entourage about it.

Besides, the season finale (with "Project Runway" finalist Michael Knight) is next week. And the reunion episode is supposed to be pretty good, too.


An expert in coloring outside the lines while reading between them, Alex B has a head for business, bod for sin, and weakness for ice cream during all seasons. Apart from watching Bravo marathons and enjoying haute bites here and there, she writes about TV, pop culture, and coloring outside even more lines. She sneaks Tweets via @lexistential.

more about alex b


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alex b
11.19.08 @ 2:09p

Okay, clearly I'm the only one around here who bit into this show hook, line, and sinker, but for anyone else curious, Dallas Austin has blasted his connection to Kim Zolciak.

The show has likewise hit a nerve among affluent African-Americans.


tracey kelley
11.21.08 @ 7:41a

I watched a little of the Orange County one folding laundry one night, and bile rose in my throat, so I stopped watching.

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