Real Housewives of DC was doomed from the beginning. Bravo’s Andy Cohen attributed the failure of the off-shoot to cast members Michaele and Tareq Salahi, who crashed a White House state dinner, casting a pox on the entire endeavor. But that incident is indicative of a much larger problem the season faced: the DC that Bravo was interested in—the wealthy, connected DC—is a city of status-oriented operators. Since the majority of socialites in DC proper are connected to the government, they would be unlikely to agree to end up on a Bravo reality show.
Those who are familiar with the capital have a basic understanding of its suburbs: whenever I tell an acquaintance that I grew up in Washington, I’ll unfailingly get a, “Washington proper, or Bethesda [wink].” Like, yes, there are a lot of affluent, over-educated white people in Bethesda, and some of my family did, for a time, live in Bethesda. I generally find the assumption rude. The point is, however, that while some wealthy, Real Housewives-eligible families live in DC proper, the vast majority live in Maryland and Virginia suburbs—and the farther out you go, the larger the houses become.
So, Bravo drove north on River Road and watched incomes skyrocket and political discretion plummet, until they hit Potomac.
Potomac (population: just under 45,000 and marginally more racially diverse than surrounding suburbs) has the highest median household income of any place in the U.S., according to CNN, with the average family bringing in $112,452 per year. Its houses are the kind of McMansions that Real Housewives devotees are likely overly-familiar with, equipped with pools and multiple luxury cars. The indistinguishable residences are punctuated by acres of unused land owned by the likes of Wolf Blitzer and Sugar Ray Leonard and a handful of NBA players. It is where a certain sort of DC celebrity goes to have the greatest carbon footprint and be their biggest self.
Perhaps cast member Gizelle Bryant summed up the suburb’s appeal best in the above trailer: “It’s right outside of DC, the African-American community is extremely small, and everyone wants to get in.” It’s only the second Real Housewives franchise to cast black women (Atlanta was the first), and in contrast with the population of the Chocolate City proper, its locale is, as always, telling—about the race and class dynamics of both the show, and America as a whole.
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