The Real Housewives aren’t really housewives anymore.

In July, Bravo premiered a completely overhauled version of “The Real Housewives of New York” with a new cast that is younger, more diverse and more business-oriented than its predecessors. 

The new stars range in age from 36 to 55, and include

Jenna Lyons,
the designer responsible for reinventing J.Crew in the 2010s. While some of them are mothers, none could be considered housewives in the strictest sense of the word: All of them have careers and businesses that they are eager to promote on the show. Bravo fans say the women are more representative of the real New York City than the previous cast.

“We were looking for a friend group that was dynamic, aspirational, fresh, diverse, funny and felt like a representation of NYC in 2023,” Andy Cohen, an executive producer of the show, said in a statement. “I’m thrilled that we found exactly the right group.” The July 16 season premiere averaged 1.1 million viewers, according to Nielsen ratings.

Professional women posing as housewives is a funny twist for Bravo’s popular reality franchise, which originally showcased socialites but turned them into TV stars. 

Before “The Real Housewives of New York City” premiered in 2008, the network had tentatively titled the series “Manhattan Moms.” The show followed women like Sonja Morgan, whose claim to fame was her marriage to a descendant of
J.P. Morgan,
and Luann de Lesseps, who was, for a time, an actual countess by marriage. They were white, wealthy and, with the notable exception of Bethenny Frankel, who sold her Skinnygirl cocktail business for a reported $120 million in 2011, not employed. 

“When you watch old episodes of ‘Housewives,’ it’s a little bit charming to see how much these women didn’t know what they were getting into,” said Dylan Hafer, the director of social and entertainment at the women’s media company Betches and host of the Bravo-themed “Mention It All” podcast. Early stars weren’t necessarily thinking about the show as a vehicle for product promotion or branding—some of them seemed barely aware of the cameras.

Today, Hafer said, “it’s kind of impossible to find a group of people who both have enough status and money and connections to really exist within this world but who do not have an understanding of everything that comes along with it.”

In the new version, the women’s professional lives are front and center. Lyons, the buzziest new cast member, references her line of false eyelashes, LoveSeen, in the show’s opening credits: “My lashes may be fake, but I definitely keep it real.” 

Ubah Hassan with one of her Ubah Hot sauces. On the show, she hosts a hot-sauce tasting for the other Housewives.

Photo: Gavin O’Neill

Sai De Silva, a self-described content creator who lives in Brooklyn, has made a point to stage multiple Instagram photoshoots on the show. Erin Lichy, a Tribeca-based real-estate agent and interior designer, welcomed the cast to her recently redesigned Hamptons property for the first trip of the season. Ubah Hassan, a model and hot-sauce entrepreneur, hosted a taste test of her Ubah Hot sauces for the ladies around the breakfast table during the trip. Rounding out the cast are Brynn Whitfield, a marketing consultant, and Jessel Taank, a fashion publicist.

Lichy, the interior designer and real-estate agent, said she went into filming with the intention of highlighting her career. Not all of her clients were eager to put their homes on reality TV, but one said yes. “We were actually able to film it, and I know that it made the cut. So I’m really excited to showcase that part of my life,” she said. 

“These girls are hustlers,” Hassan said of her fellow castmates. “They’re not waking up and not having something to do.” Talking about her own business on camera was natural, she added: “My life is my work. We’re shooting, and it’s my life, so I get calls from my manufacturing and from my team.” 

The cast of ready-made influencers in this new season shows just how far the Housewives, and reality TV at large, has come since the aughts. Some fans were initially skeptical about the changes when the network announced its new lineup of stars at BravoCon last fall: too many social-media stars, not enough out-of-touch women destined to get drunk and fall into bushes on camera.

“I wasn’t ready to let the O.G. gals go,” said Samantha Bush, a Bravo expert who runs the Instagram account @bravohistorian. But she’s found the new cast refreshing and modern. “It honestly makes me wish that they had done it sooner.”

Kaya Wilson, a co-host of the “Bravo! We’re Black” podcast, said the new cast is more in line with what current fans want to see on TV. “When the ‘Housewives’ franchise first came around, it was mainly about who you were married to. And it’s iconic to be connected to old money, but now the fan base wants to see themselves in a Housewife,” she said. 

“We desperately needed the cast to be reflective of what New York looks like,” Wilson added. “It’s always been a bit odd that in the most famous city in the world, there was no variety, whether that’s based on background, religion or sexuality.”

As for the influencer focus, “we’re kind of numb to the product placement or promoting your business,” Bush said. “It’s expected, so I don’t really knock them for doing it.” 

That said, she hasn’t succumbed to their influence. “I’m not going to go buy a hot sauce because Ubah makes the hot sauce,” she said.