Secrets Bravo Tried To Hide

Reality television claims to portray the lives of cast members in an authentic manner, but it would be impossible to cover the daily details of every star of an ensemble cast. From The Real Housewives franchise to Below Deck and more, Bravo omits mundane details for the sake of brevity. The network also occasionally leaves out important information that could shed light on a cast member's private life. When this decision is made by the Bravolebrities themselves, it's usually to protect a loved one — but producers also sometimes choose to keep their audience (and occasionally their casts) in the dark about their tricks of the TV trade. 

Basically, there's something inherently inauthentic about pretending a camera crew is not in the room recording one's every move, but we're all generally willing to suspend disbelief for the sake of entertainment. Not to mention, both cast members and producers alike try their best to preserve the viewers' illusion of being a fly on the wall. Sure, we might not always "watch what happens" exactly as it occurs, and some secrets are undeniably bigger than others, but the truth will eventually come out for those curious enough to dig deeper ... which is where we come in. We bring you the secrets even Bravo couldn't hide forever.

Bravo's Kim Zolciak-Biermann had a sugar daddy called 'Big Poppa'

Real estate developer Lee Najjar was apparently bankrolling Kim Zolciak-Biermann's lifestyle back when she was introduced to America in the first season of The Real Housewives of Atlanta. However, Zolciak-Biermann (then Kim Zolciak) was coy about Najjar's identity when filming, referring to him only as "Big Poppa." She was not shy, though, about flaunting her access to his sizable wealth (Celebrity Net Worth estimates his fortune at $50 million.)

During the Season 1 reunion, viewers discovered why Zolciak-Biermann had been less than forthcoming about her man: "Big Poppa" was still legally married to another woman. Oh boy. This confession prompted frenemy NeNe Leakes' infamous line, "Close your legs to married men!" But when asked about Najjar's role in her life a year later, Zolciak-Biermann revealed he was an active father figure to her daughters.

All that changed when Zolciak-Biermann met her now-husband, Kroy Biermann, at a May 2010 charity event, with her rocky on-and-off romance with "Big Poppa" officially coming to an end. After their November 2011 wedding was chronicled on Don't Be Tardy for the Wedding, Zolciak-Biermann left RHOA mid-season in 2012, and the Biermanns' spin-off parlayed into Don't be Tardy, which details the couple's life with their blended family. The show has been picked up for eight seasons (so far), but Zolciak-Biermann and her hubby take the opposite approach to transparency than she did with "Big Poppa." To each their own!

Filming Below Deck is a nightmare for the production crew

The Below Deck production team monitors strategically-placed cameras and the live microphones of every cast member, all in hopes of catching juicy tidbits to air on the show. Since they must pay close attention to every move the cast makes to avoid missing a stolen kiss or brewing tiff, there's a control room on the boat dedicated solely to the Bravo production crew, which is actually three separate crews working hard for round-the-clock coverage (via Screenrant). 

Below Deck producer Nadine Rajabi opened up about the filming process during a producer's panel at BravoCon 2019. "Back when we first started, we didn't have that many surveillance cameras because the boat's not that big," she began, adding, "We realized if we put more cameras, and the boat was always running audio, we could hear everything." She continued, "Now we have close to 18 surveillance cameras, so we're always rolling." 

Of course, there isn't enough room on the yacht for the production staff to sleep, so they stay at a nearby hotel on dry land during their off time. But even that's its own behind-the-scenes production: during each shift change, production teams move to and from the yacht via water taxi. Between catering to the guests' every need, completing the grueling chores necessary to keep the yacht safe, and avoiding the production crew, we imagine filming the show must be a logistical nightmare at times for the busy cast and crew.

Were some of Patti Stanger's Millionaire matches bogus?

Haters often come for Patti Stanger from nearly every angle. While watching Millionaire Matchmaker, they might lament Stanger's old-school dating rules and brash, controversial manner. A less-common criticism, however, is that her television matchmaking was reportedly mostly all for show: per Bustle, supposedly only two matches Stanger made on the series ultimately developed into lasting love. 

One reason for this might be the seemingly dubious selection methods Stanger used to recruit dates for her millionaires, considering many of the women selected as romantic options for her wealthy clients reportedly came straight outta LA Casting. It wasn't only her alleged recruiting methods that raised eyebrows, however, as some of Stanger's "millionaires" might not have really been millionaires at all. "The guy I met with ... only spoke to someone on the phone. He was never even interviewed in person ... They never even questioned his millionaire status," an insider who allegedly matched with one of Stanger's clients told HuffPost in 2011, adding, "As long as you can pay the steep fees, you are good to go. They will set you up with as many girls as you want for that price."

Stanger herself even admitted to The Fashion Spot that the show wasn't necessarily true to life, saying, "My clients would NEVER go on the show. They're more discreet, living in places like Aspen and Monaco, and want to remain private." 

The judges' table for Top Chef can be lengthy and combative

Every episode of Top Chef contains a scene, normally 10 minutes or less, of the judges deliberating the merits of each contestant's dish. What we see on the air, though, is apparently just the tip of the iceberg lettuce! The winner of each challenge, and the season's overall champion, must be chosen unanimously by the judges ... which can make for lengthy debates.

In 2019, judge Gail Simmons told, "We talk through every dish and every layer of what happened in the challenge." At a panel discussion during The New York Times' 2010 Arts & Leisure weekend (via Entertainment Weekly), Top Chef host Padma Lakshmi further described the process, saying, "If we can't make a decision, the producers will sit us there. It's like detention." She later echoed this sentiment at a 2017 92nd Street Y discussion (via Food & Wine): "[Producers] wouldn't let us leave the judge's table if we didn't feel comfortable with our decision."

At that same 2017 panel, Simmons revealed there have been "eight to ten-hour judging tables." She went on to recall one particular deliberation that lasted so long the set's lighting had to be adjusted to account for the rising sun. The deliberations between these celeb chefs don't necessarily border on fisticuffs, though, as fellow judge Tom Colicchio explained, "We do disagree, but we do have each other's backs, and we care for each other." Bon appétit, friends!

Bravo producers use tricks of the trade to rev up the drama

The quips and zingers in cast confessionals might not be quite as organic as Bravo would have us believe. Producers have sneaky methods of evoking emotion during interviews — a common trick is suggesting a cast member is boring. (No TV star wants to be boring ... boring doesn't get screen time.) Intervention producer Seth Grossman opened up about this TV roguery in a piece for Defamer. "Check your phone, yawn, flip through your notes, unwrap and start eating a hoagie, and force the interview subject to get your attention," he wrote, before admitting he'll sometimes come right out and say, "You're boring me. Give me the dirt." This method of persuasion apparently inspires excellent soundbites, but another sly approach he's taken is opening up about his own life in an effort to get cast members to spill the beans about theirs — this mutual sharing creates what Grossman called a "circle of trust."

Producers also sometimes give different call times to cast members to spark discord. No one likes waiting, and drama ensues when someone is tardy for the party. When Teddi Mellencamp Arroyave and Dorit Kemsley arrived at a restaurant 45 minutes apart on Season 8 of The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills, they argued over what time they were supposed to have met. Did producers give them different call times? Taste of Reality claimed it had the markings of a call-time caper, but we'll never really know. 

These 'White House Crashers' put a 'stink' on The Real Housewives franchise

When Michaele and Tareq Salahi somehow gained admittance to a November 2009 White House State Dinner without an invitation, it made headlines worldwide. They were branded the "White House Crashers" and became the butt of many jokes. Secret Service spokesperson Ed Donovan told the The Washington Post, "Everyone who enters the White House grounds goes through magnetometers and several other levels of screenings ... No one was under any risk or threat." However, he revealed that the couple slipped in due to "a Secret Service checkpoint which did not follow proper procedure to ensure these two individuals were on the invited guest list."

The Salahis' escapade became global news before the first episode of The Real Housewives of D.C. had even aired. But their antics cast an unfortunate shadow on the rest of the cast of purported movers and shakers in Washington, D.C. society, with Bravo's own Andy Cohen telling The Hill, "That show really got torpedoed by the 'Salamis,' I feel like, with the White House crash. There was such a stink on it from those two." And it turns out the White House State Dinner wasn't even the first swanky political dinner they crashed that fall! RHODC wasn't renewed after its first and only season, rendering it the only Real Housewives franchise to be canceled that quickly.

Bravo's Manzo family have alleged ties to the mob

Sisters Dina and Caroline Manzo, who appeared on the first and second seasons of The Real Housewives of New Jersey, married into a family with suspected mob connections — though they deny any connection to the mafia. The Brownstone Restaurant, which was featured prominently during RHONJ's first season, was owned by the ladies' father-in-law, Albert "Tiny" Manzo, before their husbands (who are brothers) took ownership. The New York Daily News reported on the family's alleged "mob pedigree" ahead of the show's 2009 premiere: the infamous Gambino family suspected "Tiny" of dealing himself dough from a Staten Island casino under Gambino control back in 1983. Shortly thereafter, "Tiny" was murdered in an alleged mob hit, and was found dead in the trunk of his car in a supermarket parking lot. However, the Manzos insist his death remains a mystery.

While there has been drama between Dina and Caroline since the show's second season, we are fairly certain none of it was mob related. Dina told Andy Cohen on Watch What Happens Live in 2018 that she and Caroline had been estranged for several years, and there has been no indication the two have communicated since then. Both ladies have long since left RHONJ, but a source told Hollywood Life in March 2020 that Caroline was eyeing a Season 11 return "as long as Bravo comes correct, meaning a good offer." Let's hope everyone involved "comes correct" when it comes to the Manzos' alleged shady connections.

The Real Housewives might want to read the small print on their Bravo contracts

In 2013, Radar Online gained access to a contract for unpaid participants of The Real Housewives of New Jersey. The contract essentially gave Bravo the right to manipulate scenes with any and all footage. (Maybe cast complaints about unflattering "editing" aren't as far fetched as the network might have us believe, after all?) It also stated that participants filmed for the series must agree not to hold producers, the production company, or NBC Universal accountable (i.e. sue them) for any fallout from real or fictionalized "personal, private, surprising, disparaging and embarrassing" revelations about them. 

Meanwhile, all Real Housewives stars reportedly can't sue one another unless they want to also take on Bravo, as Carole Radziwill could attest when she told BuzzFeed that she was unable to sue her colleague, Aviva Drescher, for defamation because she'd signed that right away in her RHONY contract. On a similar note, The New Zealand Herald reported that The Real Housewives of Auckland were forced to forfeit any right to the use of their "name, likeness, nickname and voice throughout the universe." 

It seems the price of Bravo fame is high — but The Real Housewives starlets still keep coming back season after season for that Bravo superstardom.

The reason why Lala Kent's fiance was a mystery man on Vanderpump Rules

Lala Kent is engaged to the man she loves, but navigating this relationship on a reality show was ... complicated. She started seeing Hollywood producer Randall Emmett in early 2016, but they didn't go public until January 2018. Why the two-year secret? Probably because his divorce from ex-wife Ambyr Childers wasn't finalized until December 2017. Kent tried, with difficulty, to shield her now-fiancé's identity from viewers, but after joining the Vanderpump Rules cast for Season 4, Kent quit halfway through the following season when her fellow cast members repeatedly questioned her relationship with Emmett, whom she simply referenced as "my man." She later told Entertainment Tonight, "It takes a lot of energy to constantly call someone, like, 'My man, my man, my man.'" 

After announcing she was leaving the show, Kent explained her reasons to E! News: "I think just the negativity finally got to me. I'm not good at separating real life from work, so it started trickling into my everyday relationships with people who have nothing to do with the show and once that started happening that was like not OK anymore." Kent was similarly grilled by castmates at the Season 5 reunion show, but she stood her ground after receiving sage advice from Andy Cohen to "be heard." 

After going public with her relationship, Kent rejoined the cast of Vanderpump Rules, and Emmett has made frequent appearances alongside his lady love.

Bravo's own Andy Cohen and Kathy Griffin have a long, sordid history

Kathy Griffin is perhaps most famous for ... not being famous. My Life On the D-List, produced by Andy Cohen, chronicled her everyday antics, which usually involved lightheartedly humiliating herself and anyone in her path. However, both D-List and Griffin's subsequent talk show, Kathy, were eventually canceled by Bravo. And there appears to be no love lost between Griffin and Cohen, but tensions boiled over in 2017. 

Griffin infamously hit a career low after posing for a purportedly satirical photograph depicting herself holding a gruesome decapitated replica of President Donald Trump's head. Later telling The Daily Beast that she was investigated for "conspiracy to assassinate the president of the United States" following the photo's release, the comedian lost almost all of her work, including hosting CNN's New Year's Eve special with longtime pal Anderson Cooper. After Cooper condemned the snapshot via Twitter, Griffin retaliated by lobbing public insults at him, ushering in the demise of their friendship. 

When Cohen was named as her replacement for the CNN gig, Griffin described him as "deeply misogynistic" and claimed he treated her "like a dog" when producing her shows, which he alleged to USA Today was untrue. We don't know what started the Griffin/Cohen feud, but an iconic pop culture moment stemmed from it: Cohen pulled out the "shady boot" when TMZ asked him about Griffin's comments. Embodying Mariah Carey, he simply responded, "I don't know her."