The stars of the latest series in the Real Housewives franchise are an assortment of extravagant, attention-seeking personalities straight out of Bravo’s central cast.
There’s a tequila entrepreneur having family dinner at Taco Bell in his Porsche. A baby-voiced blonde celebrating her wedding anniversary with a spin on the stripper stick. Oh yes, and a woman married to her stepfather.
Like their counterparts elsewhere in the country, the affluent women of The Real Housewives of Salt Lake City thrive on little drama, ostentatious drinking, and regular visits to the plastic surgeon.
But one thing sets them apart: The majority of the cast are or have been members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, a religion known to promote healthy values rather than cat fights fueled by the. ros.
The location offers snow-capped mountains as a scenic backdrop, which is essential for the cast members to have plenty of opportunities to wear extravagant après-ski fashion. But as an epicenter of the Mormon Church and a place where the influence of the LDS reverberates into daily life, Salt Lake City offers rich anthropological ground, especially when it comes to the lives of women who fail to comply. not to Church rules.
While the show includes the usual little conflicts (a feud has already arisen because one woman said another smelled of hospital), religion is at the heart of the drama in a way unique to the women’s universe. home, where the goat yoga class is about as spiritual as it gets.
It’s truly surprising how open they are to Mormonism and how it relates to their lives, says Andy Cohen, Bravo figurehead and executive producer of Real Housewives.
To be a Mormon, we are taught honesty and integrity, fidelity in marriage, and most importantly, to watch out for sin, housewives explain in an opening montage, which shows they behave in a way. opposite.
Needless to say, the women at RHOSLC aren’t exactly role model Mormons: Lisa Barlow has converted from Judaism, owns multiple liquor companies, and describes herself as Mormon 2.0 due to her lax attitude to Church laws. . Jen Shah was raised a Mormon but converted to Islam when she learned of the history of racial exclusion from the church. Whitney Rose was excommunicated from church after cheating on her first husband. And Heather Gay is a divorced woman bristling with the constraints placed on her as a single woman. (In addition to the spiritual mix are the other cast members Meredith Marks, a Jewish jewelry designer, and Mary Cosby, the first lady in love with the tailoring of a Pentecostal church and one of the first candidates for the emissions.)
The producers didn’t hesitate to play the Mormon element, frequently using shots from the Salt Lake City Temple. Joseph Smith and Brigham Young are known as often as luxury brands. In a bonus video on YouTube, the housewives answer questions about Mormonism like, What is a sacred garment?
For many women, the show is a continuation of their spiritual journey. Gay, a mother of three whose ex-husband comes from a wealthy Utah family, becomes increasingly disillusioned with the church over the season. (Its slogan: Just like my pioneer ancestors, I am trying to forge a new path.)
When she divorced six years ago, Gay said in a phone interview, I had no version of a future for myself. I didn’t know a single mother who was not helpless and depressed and who came to church for financial help.
If she wanted to go out and stay in good standing in the church, she would have had to follow the same rules as my 17 year old daughter, which she was unwilling to do.
She no longer adheres to the church’s code of modesty, the law of chastity or the word of wisdom, the name of the commandment against substances such as alcohol and tobacco. And she criticizes the church’s position on LGBTQ rights and women’s equality.
I’m going through this transition quite publicly [in the series]. While my faith still defines me in so many ways, I don’t practice it anymore, she said. It is a universal faith. That’s why it’s really traumatic to leave him. I always feel like it runs through every thought I have.
Gay has found a sense of fulfillment running a business, a medical spa offering Botox, fillers, and other cosmetic treatments that capitalize on what she calls the Mormon hobby of relentless self-improvement.
We’re very focused on emotional, financial and physical development, she says, and that has a particular impact on women. The beauty of your home, the beauty and good conduct of your children, and your physical beauty reflect your moral state. We appreciate beautiful women because it reflects their righteousness.
Mormons believe people have the potential to become like God, says Lorie Stromberg, a Mormon feminist and member of a group called Ordain Women, which advocates for gender equality in the church. (Most men of good standing in the Mormon faith are ordained lay priest; Women are not.) We have this paradigm of perfectionism, and it is stuck in a highly patriarchal model in which women are primarily valued as mothers, she adds, to the point that both the woman and the mother are often used almost interchangeably.
Rose, the aforementioned pole-spinner, is a descendant of Shadrach Roundy, one of Joseph Smith’s bodyguards. The pressure to conform to the female ideal is what drove her to marry at 19, despite doubts about her relationship. 100% it was a consequence of trying to be perfect. It is the architecture of the day you were born.
She then fell in love with a colleague 18 years her senior and embarked on a passionate adventure, which culminated in their excommunication and a second marriage that lasted a decade and produced two children.
I must have mourned the loss of so many friends and family over the years. They cannot understand that I am in a happy place. We are taught that if you have blessings, if you are successful, it is because you are following the rules of the church, Rose said. Sometimes it’s hard for her, too: I’ve been out of church for 12 or 13 years now, and I still have to work on rewiring my brain.
Rose says that she and Gay are diving deep into their experiences in the church during the season. They met years ago when Rose hired Gay to take her boudoir photo. A few years later, they realized they were second cousins. (There’s more to Utah than that, Rose said.)
Some aspects of Mormon culture, especially the role women play in faith, align with the ambitious and well-heeled Bravos brand of reality TV.
Young and stylish Mormon influencers like Rachel Parcell and Amber Fillerup Clark are popular on Instagram, where they have amassed hundreds of thousands of followers beyond the LDS community by sharing cheerful photos of their adorable children and vast, pristine white kitchens. Salt Lake City is said to have a higher rate of plastic surgeons per capita than Los Angeles, and a study from the University of Utah Valley found that two-thirds of Mormon women in Utah knew someone who had had cosmetic and plastic surgery.
There are never more beautiful people than when you walk into Salt Lake airport, says Barlow, who grew up in New York City and calls herself Jewish by heritage, Mormon by choice. People take really good care of themselves. It’s not a question of money, it’s a question of integrity. A prophet said to keep your barn painted as, literally, you are doing your best.
The church’s breed record is also under scrutiny in The Real Housewives of Salt Lake City, thanks to Shah. Raised a Mormon, she converted to Islam As-salamu alaykum, bitches! she said when she learned from her husband that the LDS Church had a history of black exclusion. (Black men could only be ordained in 1978.)
It was a difficult choice for Shah, who is of Tongan and Hawaiian descent and still occasionally attends church with his mother.
Its kind, could I choose more diversity? Let’s make my life as difficult as possible in Utah. We have ticked all the boxes.
The Real Housewives of Salt Lake City has what might be the most racially integrated cast in what has been a segregated franchise. The New York Edition recently added its first black cast member and some of what has. attracted Shah to the series was an opportunity to show a more diverse side of his community. (Like the rest of the cast, she was approached to star in a reality series about female entrepreneurs in Utah and later learned it would be a new Housewives spin-off.)
I felt like I had to portray that it’s not just Caucasian, blonde-haired, blue-eyed women running successful businesses here, she says.
With popular shows taking place aboard luxury yachts in the Caribbean and at beachhouses in the Hamptons, Bravo has been eyeing the majestic mountains of the West for years. We’ve played Aspen about a million times, says Cohen, who previously developed another show about modern Mormons who fell apart when the contestants dropped out.
I think there is a lot of mystery about the church and people are intrigued by it, says Cohen.
Some residents are already unhappy. A review in the Deseret News, a Salt Lake City-based church-owned newspaper, warned readers that the show is full of digs into Utah culture [and] church members … who will make any diehard Utah tremble or even get angry. (The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints declined to comment on the show.)
Bravo doesn’t worry about the potential backfire.
I think there will be a lot of people who say this doesn’t represent Salt Lake City or the Mormon Church, Cohen says. It’s not supposed to. Its supposed to represent a certain group of friends in this area.
Gay sees it differently and hopes people who feel they don’t have a place in church, whether it’s because of their gender, sexuality, or marital status, do too.
For me, being on this show and talking openly about what I think and feel is a huge handicap for the church, she says. What I really want to do is create a safe space for many recovering Mormons around the world.
The Real Housewives of Salt Lake City
Or: well done
When: 10 p.m. Wednesday
Evaluation: TV-14 (may not be suitable for children under 14)
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