What started as a single show about five rich women in California exploded into one of the biggest reality TV franchises of our generation. In some ways, the Real Housewives recipe is simple: affluent older women, cordial but sometimes fractured friendships, and cast members who technically don’t even need a husband. But in Housewives’ 14-year history, the model has been tweaked ever so slightly, with varying degrees of success. You could say this was the case with the fifth franchise in the series, The Real Housewives of D.C.
Premiering the summer of 2010, the series didn’t bring the vapid cattiness of The Real Housewives of Orange County or the table-flipping tension of The Real Housewives of New Jersey. It was political—dare I say earnest—and measurably less glitzy than its successor The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills. “I think that D.C. was supposed to be more serious,” says former cast member Lynda Erkiletian, founder of T•H•E Artist Agency and Executive Director of the James and Paula Coburn Foundation.
“They cut out all of our designer stuff,” Erkiletian told Jezebel. “I knew based on that they were not interested in having us be glamorous.” Erkiletian added, “They wanted the industry, but they didn’t want the housewives to come off vacuous.”
Viewers would get only 11 episodes of the show before Bravo pulled the plug on a second season, following an alleged security breach at President Obama’s very first state dinner involving castmates Michaele Salahai, her then-husband Tareq, and of course Bravo cameras. To this day, they’re still dubbed the “White House crashers.”
“When that happened, everything changed,” says Mary Amons, former cast member and founder of Mary Amons Design. “From my understanding production had to go back and re-edit everything.” She added, “The focus shifted a lot from who we were independently as people and contributors to D.C. into what these people were, what they meant to us and how offensive they were.”
Amons—who hoped to use the show as a platform to raise money for women’s and children’s causes—says the original season finale was likely to feature a fashion show to support Children’s National Medical Center in D.C. Instead, we saw footage of the Salahi’s plead the fifth in front of the homeland security committee.
“There was a lot of disappointment that went along with how things ended,” Amons told Jezebel but added that everything happens for a reason and that filming really strengthened the bond between the cast—especially Erkiletian, who was already a dear friend prior to filming. “It’s been a remarkable memory in our relationship,” Amons says.
Michaele Salahai, now Michaele Schon, remarried in 2013. Though she didn’t wish to be interviewed for this piece, Schon sent Jezebel the following statement via her rep:
“I love The Real Housewives Family very much, always!
I am thankful to God every day, every moment for my husband, Neal Schon and our love and life together! I am thankful for all of you and love you very much!
The Real Housewives Show, and my life back then, over a decade ago, wow, I would never want to go through that TV drama, again, but it DID give me the strength within myself to follow my dreams, and dreams really do come true!! Believe & Faith.”
Love & Light!
— Michaele Schon
“God Bless and Congratulations to Andy Cohen and his beautiful child!”
In the video above, we speak with Amons and Erkiletian about their experience filming and life post-reality television ahead of the show’s 10-year anniversary.