Karen Huger: The Grand Dame Of Potomac

The following article mentions sexual assault.

"The Real Housewives of Potomac" first premiered on Bravo in 2016, and from the moment Karen Huger graced our screens and introduced herself as the Grand Dame of Potomac, viewers were completely on board. In addition to her shady reads, etiquette lessons, and marriage to the man she's referred to as "the Black Bill Gates," there's a lot to love about Karen. She sure knows how to make an entrance, and the more you know about her, the more she'll leave a great impression. 

Whether she's mispronouncing the word vaccinated or going toe to toe with Nicki Minaj, the Grand Dame always steals the show effortlessly. Outside of her iconic Bravo moments, the housewife turned entrepreneur is a proud mother. Of course, viewers know her daughter, Rayvin Huger, a college graduate and a fashionista in the making. She's also mom Brandon Huger, her son who has made a point to fly under the radar and avoid the Bravo cameras. Even so, Karen will sing his praises when she gets the chance. "He has a wonderful career, he's very happy," she told The Daily Dish in 2022. "My son is definitely one of my joys, along with Rayvin. Like, the best thing I'll ever do are my children."

With Karen Huger, there's more than what meets the eye. Here's everything you need to know about the Grand Dame of "The Real Housewives of Potomac."

She was gifted the title of Grand Dame

In case you already didn't know, the title of Grand Dame is something money can't buy, so don't expect to find it on Amazon Prime. And in Potomac, there's only one woman that holds the crown. Early on in the first season of "The Real Housewives of Potomac," Karen Huger announced that she is indeed the Grand Dame of Potomac, and should be regarded accordingly. But how did she get that title, you ask? Well, on an episode of "The Wendy Williams Show," Huger revealed that she didn't actually give that title to herself. Rather, the Bravo production team began calling her that while filming. 

"Production started throwing that name around and the girls picked it up. It stuck with me," she explained. "And who else on the show could be the Grand Dame but me?" When the show aired in 2016, diehard "RHOP" fans ran with that nickname and the "Real Housewives" universe was never the same. 

That's not to say the title has not been disputed. After her co-star Robyn Dixon quipped that former main cast member Charrisse Jackson-Jordan was the actual "grand dame" of the region, Huger told Andy Cohen at BravoCon 2022 that she did not pay this assessment much mind. "[Jackson-Jordan] is not and I am, and that's it," Huger said.

How the Grand Dame met her match

When you think of "The Real Housewives of Potomac" star Karen Huger, you can't forget the man by her side, Ray Huger. Ray is the owner of a successful software company named Paradigm, and the two have been married since 1997. Thanks to his work in the tech industry, Ray was given the nickname "the Black Bill Gates" — much to his chagrin. "Ray actually hates it ... he never likes being called that because he's not that kind of man," Karen once shared on an episode of "The Wendy Williams Show."

In the same interview, Karen shared that she and her husband first connected at the Black Caucus. Karen planted herself in a seat in front of Ray hoping to catch his eye and make a great first impression. According to Karen, after her first marriage didn't pan out, Ray was just the type of partner she hoped for. "I wanted to get married again, so I said a prayer to God," she explained. "I said 'Look, I need a man that I can look up to and not afraid of me.'"

In a 2016 Twitter Q&A with fans, Karen recounted the night that set their love story in motion. "I met my husband at the black caucus. He took me in his arms, asked me to dance and I haven't left him since," she tweeted (via Page Six). The rest was Potomac history. In 2021, the couple had a vow renewal to mark their 25th wedding anniversary.

She is a sexual assault survivor

In Season 2 of "The Real Housewives of Potomac," Karen Huger shared that she's a sexual assault survivor. Before her daughter Rayvin Huger headed off to college, the "Real Housewives" star expressed how scared she was to see her youngest go. So, the two attended a self-defense class where Karen opened up about being raped when she was in college. "If you find yourself unfortunately in any of these situations, fight for your life," she told Rayvin as she struggled to hold back tears. "Forget everything we taught you about being kind and just come back to me whole." 

Karen recalled that moment changing her. "I said no and I remember him saying the most heinous things to me," she said. "I just remember my soul leaving my body." After speaking out, Huger received an award from Promoting Awareness | Victim Empowerment (PAVE). In an interview with Page Six, Huger revealed that her attacker was a public figure and she has chosen not to reveal his identity, despite him passing away. "But I forgave him a long time ago, that is why I lead the life I do today, forgiveness is a part of it," she said. Of talking about it on the reality series, Huger said she hoped to shed light on the suicide rates of other survivors. "I am put in a very wonderful position to show that when adversity comes your way it doesn't stop you, it can propel you," she said.

If you or anyone you know has been a victim of sexual assault, help is available. Visit the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network website or contact RAINN's National Helpline at 1-800-656-HOPE (4673).

Her parents died just some months apart

In 2017, tragedy struck Karen Huger's family. The reality star confirmed to Page Six that her mother, Georgia Raines Wooden, died on Thanksgiving. During her final years, her mother was diagnosed with Alzheimer's which motivated Huger to raise awareness in hopes of finding a cure for the disease. Less than seven months later, Huger once again revealed heartbreaking news. Her father, Benjamin B. Wooden, passed away at the age of 74. "There's never enough time," Huger told Page Six about the loss. "In my father's memory, any donations to the Alzheimer's Association are most appreciated." 

While filming the Season 3 reunion, an emotional Huger was overcome with grief while discussing her father's death. Host Andy Cohen revealed that the star had buried her father just days before the cast reconvened to tape the post-season special. After she broke out into tears and walked off stage, Huger's on-again, off-again adversary Gizelle Bryant soon followed and lended a shoulder to cry on. Despite their differences, Bryant commended Huger for her strength. "I'm tired of being strong," Huger told Bryant through tears. "It's my dad, and I lost my mom in seven months." 

Huger continues to use her platform to raise Alzheimer's awareness in hopes of finding a cure. In June 2022, the star highlighted Alzheimer's & Brain Awareness Month on Twitter, encouraging her fans to honor those living with the illness.

Karen Huger is a small town girl

The Grand Dame comes from humble beginnings and she doesn't hide from it. Karen Huger grew up on a farm in Surry County, Virginia. "I lived on 150 acres, we had employees," she once told Wendy Williams. "I never worked a day in my life. My daddy was a hell of a farmer and a businessman." On "The Real Housewives of Potomac" the star has always spoken highly of her hometown and the values it instilled in her — like the importance of etiquette. As one of the biggest stars to come from the small town with a population of 71,904, it's no surprise that Surry County loved the shoutout. 

In fact, Huger was named an official Surry County ambassador and was honored with a parade in 2019. In a continued effort to shed light on the town and promote tourism, the reality star starred in a video showing off the beauty of the town. (As "Real Housewives" fans may remember, some parts of the video were actually shot in Potomac. It's the thought that counts, right?) In 2021, the Grand Dame returned to her hometown to spread holiday cheer and lend a helping hand to those in need. The Sussex-Surry Dispatch reported that 500 boxes of food were to those experiencing food insecurity.

She's been open about the work she's had done

The Grand Dame's looks have certainly evolved over the years. Over the course of "The Real Housewives of Potomac," fans have seen her go from a disheveled wig to launching her very own line of custom wigs. The reality star has also made some changes to her visage throughout the years, and she's been candid about said changes. At the Season 5 reunion, for example, Huger confirmed she had work done on her nose. "I had injections put into my nose because it was bothering my breathing," Huger explained. "My nose just tilts down with time, and they just filled the tip of my nose up with a little filler." 

When Nicki Minaj acted as a guest host at the Season 6 reunion, she wondered if Huger had any other work done. And Huger confirmed that there was indeed another reason why her face looked different. "I get the [under-eye] filler," she said. "I take very good care of myself. I eat well. I exercise. I think age is just a number." During Season 7, Huger said she had recently gotten her breasts done. Though Huger was ecstatic over her new look, her husband admitted he is not too fond of plastic surgery, as noted in a Vulture episode recap. Despite his objections to her changing her look, Huger shared she is happy with the augmentations. 

She took legal action against cheating rumors

The one thing that Karen Huger loves more than being called "The Grand Dame of Potomac" is being married to Ray Huger. She lovingly refers to their marriage as "The Institution." But throughout "RHOP," the Hugers have faced plenty of speculation about their relationship. During Season 3, co-star Ashley Darby stirred the pot by spreading a story about Karen supposedly sleeping with a driver who they referred to as "Blue Eyes." Karen didn't take too kindly to those cheating rumors and fired back with a cease and desist order. Darby confirmed she received it at the reunion, however, she continued to double down on her original claims. Karen hit back with more legal threats. "Ashley, you just want it to be something it's not and it's not," Karen told her. "You're lying and if you continue with this, it's not an idle threat, I will sue you for your restaurant and give it to your mother." 

The "Blue Eyes" rumor was originally brought to the show by Charrisse Jackson-Jordan at the Season 2 reunion. Perhaps unsurprisingly, Jackson-Jordan and Karen aren't exactly on the best of terms

The cheating allegations bubbled up yet again during Season 7, but Karen isn't too bothered. "First of all, let's stress the word rumor," she told E! News after Candiace Dillard mentioned the tittle-tattle in an episode. "It's rumors and I don't have time for rumors. I'm focused on my family. Everyone knows I'm family-oriented and I'm into my business."

The tax drama that surprised Karen Huger

In 2017, Karen and Ray Huger's finances made headlines when The Washington Post published an exposé on the couple's tax issues. The report claimed that Ray himself owed nearly $1.5 million in back-due federal taxes and his software company owed more than $3 million. During Season 3, the couple had to answer questions surrounding the tax debt. Karen revealed on "The Real Housewives of Potomac" that she was tipped off about the tax issue by an unnamed source just hours before the article went live. 

The couple moved into a new home away from Potomac which signaled to the ladies that the Hugers were downsizing. In one episode, Karen shut down discussions of the tax debt. "Read my f**king lips: I don't owe anybody anything," she told co-star Robyn Dixon. "Do your case search. Miss Karen owes nobody." However, the tax issues remained a hot topic throughout the season, and some of her castmates used the legal drama to poke at Karen.

During one dinner, Gizelle Bryant wore a t-shirt that read "#FreeUncleBen" and "#TaxReform," which was a shady dig at the couple. In an interview with "The Daily Dish" podcast, Karen described how she felt when discovered her husband's IRS troubles. "I could say it scared me. We didn't know what we were gonna do, how we were gonna make it," she said. "I thought the world was coming to an end." Despite the brief trouble, in 2018 she revealed that everything was quickly settled by Ray.

Her spin-off explored her family's past and future

After taking over "The Real Housewives of Potomac," Karen Huger got the opportunity to headline her own spin-off special in 2022. Following the "RHOP" Season 6 finale, Bravo viewers were greeted with a two-part special titled "The Real Housewives of Potomac: Karen's Grande Dame Reunion." In it, Huger returned to her small town roots and reunited with her family in the first-ever Wooden family reunion. Huger headed to Surry County with one goal in mind: deciding the future of the 82-acre family farm. 

The trailer, which was very clearly inspired by "Succession," hinted at the battles the younger generation and older generation would face while making those decisions. In episode two, they learned that their ancestors were slaves, per People. The Wooden family later went on to own the land they worked on as slaves.

The special concluded with the current owner of the land, Huger's Aunt Val, revealing she has a will and hopes to pass it down to the family. As she grappled with the family tension over the farmland, Huger reflected over her parents' death. Taping the reunion special made her realize she wanted to make more of an effort to spend time with her family in Surry County.

Karen Huger's taking over the beauty industry

In addition to being a reality TV star, Karen Huger is an entrepreneur with a blossoming business. After joining the Bravo roster, "The Real Housewives of Potomac" cast member launched a fragrance perfectly named La' Dame. It was later sold on HSN and in Bloomingdales. After the initial success, Huger had big plans in mind for her brand. "I will continue to expand my La' Dame brand, which is a beauty brand. So, sky's the limit," she revealed to Bravo's The Daily Dish in 2020. Huger kept true to her word and the brand has quickly expanded with other collections. 

It now includes a special three-wick candle — not to be mistaken for Wendy Osefo's one-wick candle. If that's not enough, she even delivered another way to help fans achieve her iconic Grand Dame look. In 2020, she announced on Twitter a special line of luxurious wigs named La' Dame By Karen Huger X RPGSHOW. The line includes special wigs that fans have seen her rock on "RHOP". We're sure her beauty industry takeover will continue. Perhaps a La' Dame exclusive clothing line? She should hook up Gizelle Bryant with some pieces to help her avoid getting roasted for her style again.