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How ‘Real’ and ‘New York’ Are the New ‘Real Housewives of New York’?

We're looking for traces of authentic NYC life on the new season of RHONY.

The Real Housewives of New York City Season 14 group cast image. Pictured here, from left: Brynn Whitfield, Erin Dana Lichy, Sai De Silva, Jenna Lyons, Jessel Taank, and Ubah Hassan.

(Bravo)

I knew the new season of "Real Housewives of New York" would be OK as soon as the first fight of the series rolled around: a spat over what one cast member may or may not have said about another woman's charcuterie board. Ripped directly from the "Real Housewives" playbook! But after 13 iconically messy, blisteringly horny seasons with Bravo legends like Bethenny Frankel, Luann de Lesseps, and Ramona Singer at its core, the series is back with a brand-new cast, scouted in an effort to pull the franchise in a different direction—away from white women partying their way through uptown Manhattan, scoffing at Brooklyn, dating the same three or four bald guys, and being inappropriate at the beach.

"This is the most multicultural, diverse, and energetic and exciting city in America: We are searching for a multicultural group of friends who really best reflect the most exciting city in the country," the show's puppetmaster Andy Cohen told Variety when the reboot was first announced back in 2022. "We're looking for a group of women who are real friends, and who are of diverse backgrounds, races, and religions." 

The end result is a cast of six women: model/entrepreneur Ubah Hassan, blogger Sai De Silva, real estate operator/interior designer Erin Lichy, publicist Jessel Taank, former J. Crew creative director and famous lesbian hottie Jenna Lyons, and Brynn Whitfield, whom Bravo's website describes as a "flirtatious, single socialite" first and "communications professional" second.

But is assembling a younger, multiracial cast really enough to turn RHONY, a chronicle of wealth and its corrosive influence on the psyche of beautiful women, into something resembling an authentic depiction of New York City in 2023? (Also: Will our pop culture-obsessed, party-loving mayor make an appearance?)

In the spirit of gatekeeping NYC, I'm going to spend RHONY season 14 zooming in on the single most and least relatable thing the new set of Housewives do every episode. Deep, meaningful pop culture analysis? Not really. A fun summer read? Fingers crossed! 

The first episode of the new RHONY introduced us, the loyal viewers, to our new RHONY girls. Jenna Lyons hosted a confusing theme party, Erin Lichy and Brynn Whitfield worked through a spat, and we learned that two different cast members each have a son named "Rio." All in all, an auspicious start.

Most authentic New York moment: When Sai talks brownstone snooping

One of the city's greatest pastimes is gawking past the open curtains (or, even better, through the floor-to-ceiling windows) of expensive-looking homes and wondering, Who the fuck lives there? How do I do that? I was personally tickled to see Brooklyn native and new Housewife Sai De Silva express the exact same sentiment early in the first episode.

"Everything that I had growing up is so different from the family that I created now," De Silva said in a confessional. "I would just like, walk down tree-lined blocks in Brooklyn and look through the homes and think, How do they live here? Sometimes I see people looking through my brownstone and lo and behold, look at me now!"

Most authentic New York moment (honorable mention): When Sai and Brynn cancel their plans with the rest of the group to do a different, cooler thing

The core of Erin and Brynn's episode one spat was this: Erin just wanted to plan a last-minute, big group dinner, but she made a fatal mistake. She snagged a reservation at a one-syllable restaurant that was either cool in "2005" or "2011," according to Brynn. (I think it's either Catch or Tao, but Bravo bleeped the actual name out.) Because of this, Brynn and Sai ditched the group and went to Casa Cipriani instead, and then Brynn posted about it on Instagram. This is a total bitch move, and kind of a classic New York City situation, but it was edged out because technically, it could happen anywhere.

Least authentic New York moment: When Ubah and Erin hang out in Washington Square Park

Sorry, but this is a show about rich, high-powered adults—they have absolutely zero business spending time in Washington Square Park. I'm not saying it's a bad place to hang out—I'm just saying that if they were both, say, freshmen at NYU, then the setting would be a lot more believable. Like, are they trying to be in a TikTok about what song they're listening to right now? Buying weed from a guy at a folding table? Waiting to play a bunch of elderly geniuses in chess? It's actually not realistic.

Again, this was just the season premiere—stay tuned for more insight on where and when these women stage their weird, passive-aggressive dinners or questionable charity events, and whether or not the show's choices actually have anything to do with the city we live in. For everything else RHONY, I don't know, look on Reddit or read Vulture. Ciao!

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