Miami's Real Housewives, Uncut
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In the best situation, landing a spot on an RHO franchise can translate to big money, fame and fortune: RHONY’s Bethenny Frankel has admitted she had trouble paying her rent in 2008 and relied on rich boyfriends to help her out; by 2010, The Daily Beast reported that her best-selling books, videos and Skinnygirl-branded food and drinks earned her more than $4 million that year. In a worst-case scenario, a character (a term Bravo eschews, insisting they’re real women and should be called such) will have her past felonies exposed. Or she might become tabloid fodder for a while before fading into oblivion (Does anyone remember Kimberly Bryant?). As Cristy recently remarked: “If it works out, it’s a blessing. If it doesn’t work out, then it was an experience.”
Just How Did Bravo Find the Ladies of RHOM?
Sheri Maroufkhani and her husband/business partner, Michael McNamara, were also celebrating at the aformentioned preview. They’re the LA-based producers who created the show via their company, MCfilmworks (pulling in Ocean Drive’s editor-at-large Jose Ortiz as the show’s casting director), and were the best people to answer one of the biggest questions everyone’s asking: How were these ladies chosen?
Maroufkhani says they began casting the show in May of ’09, with some odds stacked against them: Miami Social turned out to be a flop. And while The Real Housewives of New Jersey’s ratings were recordbreaking (its first-season finale attracted 3.9 million viewers, making it one of the highest-rated English telecasts among the 18–49 age group on the day it aired), all its table-flipping glory (Teresa Giudice) and wild drug and prostitution scandals (Danielle Staub) were making potential Miami Housewives and their families nervous to sign on.
Ultimately, Bravo and MCfilmworks went with a Cuban-American publicist (Marysol Patton) with a wildly eccentric mom (Elsa), NBA star Scottie Pippen’s wife (Larsa Pippen), NBA star Glen Rice’s ex-wife (Cristy Rice), a Texas-born philanthropist/socialite married to acclaimed criminal defense attorney Roy Black (Lea Black), a Brazilian pentaglot art gallery owner (Adriana De Moura) and a Cuban-American magazine editor (Alexia Echevarria).
In casting the series, Maroufkhani says she was looking foremost for women who had a great sense of humor, followed by aesthetics (“We are still making a TV show, after all”) and stature in the community. Their lives had to be intertwined in some sense, as well. “If you don’t know the women in the show with you, there will be no stakes, no connection and no sparks—good or bad.”
Degrees of Separation
Larsa and Cristy are friends because their respective significant others played in the NBA together for more than a dozen years; the Pippens know the Blacks socially; Lea and Adriana became friends after meeting at their sons’ school on Fisher Island; Marysol’s public relations firm, The Patton Group, has worked the press and red carpet for Lea Black’s annual charity gala for years; and Marysol and Alexia run in Miami’s media circle together.
Photographs by Navid