Jenna Lyons is the last great Real Housewife

A woman in a trench coat and large dark glasses.
Jenna Lyons will not be a Actual Housewife. She is simply on a present that is known as Actual Housewives.
Dia Dipasupil/Getty Pictures for NYFW: The Reveals

Jenna Lyons is essentially the most reluctant Actual Housewife that’s ever been on tv. She doesn’t yell. She doesn’t costume in gaudy robes. She doesn’t have a catchphrase. She doesn’t even just like the time period Housewife.

“I don’t need it to develop into my defining second,” stated Lyons, the previous president of J.Crew and present solid member of the 14th season of Bravo’s Actual Housewives of New York, in an interview with the Shut Up Evan podcast. “And it’s difficult, as a result of I had a profession previous to this — a comparatively massive one — and I don’t need this to develop into my calling card.”

“I’m really not a housewife, I’m Jenna Lyons and I’m on a present known as The Actual Housewives,” she added, recounting how she texted government producer Andy Cohen about how she sees the distinction with distinction.

She’s proper. Lyons wasn’t solid as a result of she was Actual Housewives materials; she appears a bit too dignified for a present that often featured a fan-favorite sexagenarian pooping on flooring like an animal. Housewives are solid for his or her extremely flammable personalities, which appears diametrically against Lyons’s too-cool method. She is, nevertheless, fairly well-known, and a certifiably distinctive addition to the present. Plus, she has an organization to advertise. The present wished her for her, and she or he answered their name.

Regardless of all of the huffing and puffing, it’s precisely Lyons’s low-level hostility to the time period “Actual Housewife” that has made her essentially the most fascinating factor in regards to the 14th season of The Actual Housewives of New York Metropolis.

Her reluctance to Housewife (verb) — pursue melodrama, instigate arguments, crack one-liners — is precisely what makes her so compelling. Maybe that’s as a result of it’s one thing near actual, if not relatable. Lyons was born to slay, compelled to Housewife. It’s riveting TV.

Jenna Lyons is an efficient Actual Housewife as a result of she doesn’t wish to be good at it

Unlocking Lyons’s attraction means understanding that Bravo’s numerous Actual Housewives franchises are — on some stage — mendacity to you.

“Actual Housewife” has all the time been a little bit of a misnomer. To start out, being married will not be a requirement to be on the present. The ladies featured additionally don’t essentially dwell in neighborhoods like Potomac or Beverly Hills, however The Actual Housewives of Finksburg or Encino aren’t as catchy. The Housewives are actual, however solely within the sense that they’re ladies who exist, dwell within the basic space, and work together with the opposite ladies on the present as a result of they’re contractually obligated to.

However adhering to strict concepts of title and taxonomy isn’t essential to having fun with Actual Housewives.

Jenna Lyons standing behind and with an arm over the shoulders of Usher, who smiles and makes a peace sign toward the camera.
Jenna Lyons with a fan (Usher).
River Callaway/WWD by way of Getty Pictures

Followers watch as a result of all this artifice creates extremely pleasant, edgeless leisure. There isn’t a higher tv present to fold your laundry to or to placed on whilst you play along with your telephone than Housewives. It detangles your mind. Every episode matches a sample: the lead-up to some sort of group gathering, the fete itself, or the aftermath.

The stakes couldn’t be decrease. The implications couldn’t be any sillier. The drama couldn’t be pettier.

Housewives knowledgeable and bestselling writer Brian Moylan defined to me earlier this 12 months that there are specific traits — narcissism, a blazing lack of self-awareness, messiness, reducing wit, a humorousness, self-deprecation — that make for good Housewives and sure ones — falseness, desperation, dullness, and the lack to create and be part of a storyline — that make for “dangerous” ones that hardly final a season.

What makes Lyons such an enigma on this present is that she’s carved out her personal path. She’s proof against enjoying the Housewives recreation, however she’s not enjoying it badly.

She eschews the normal, flashy Actual Housewives markers of wealth like designer logos and gaudy robes for chunky sweaters and denim. Lyons wore denims to the not too long ago filmed RHONY reunion present, leaving some followers shocked. When the ladies exit east, we uncover that Lyons has a comfy seashore cottage, which appears modest in comparison with a fellow solid member’s six- or seven-bedroom Sag Harbor mansion (nearly poetically, the latter home is so huge that the ladies complain about it freezing). If Lyons employs glam — shorthand for the hair and make-up groups that some Housewives spend hundreds of {dollars} a 12 months on — it hasn’t been a part of the present.

That isn’t to say that Lyons is unglamorous. She attire impeccably, clearly. That’s why she’s credited for “altering trend” and why she was solid. However she reveals this season that her fashion is how she offers with a genetic complication that has left her balding and with out eyebrows or lashes. That’s the origin story behind LoveSeen, Lyons’s synthetic lash firm, which she brazenly explains that she got here on the present to advertise.

Lyons’s daring fashion, she assures us and her costars, belies somebody who doesn’t really feel daring in any respect.

From what we see on TV, Lyons is an introverted, awkward individual, the type who doesn’t wish to be the focus. Her confessionals are quieter than the opposite ladies’s, and if she says one thing reducing, it’s all the time sly, behind a smirk or flicked away as she breaks eye contact with the digicam.

Lyons appears averse to spectacle, which is curious since she’s been dropped right into a present that’s all in regards to the spectacle.Sooner or later, you marvel how this relatable human discovered their method into such an alien world, and then you definitely keep in mind that Lyons crafted Michelle Obama’s signature fashion and attended the Met Gala.The strain of this present then turns into whether or not this glamorous creature can study the customs and rituals of this unusual place.

Jenna Lyons, in dark glasses and a bright yellow outfit, smiling broadly at a fashion show.
It’s actually upsetting how stylish this lady is.
Sean Zanni/Patrick McMullan by way of Getty Pictures

You’ll be able to witness it in a current episode, the eleventh of the season, when the ladies go on a solid journey to Anguilla. Erin Lichy, an exquisite lady who has made real-life information for explaining that she didn’t imply to donate 4 instances to former President Donald Trump whereas he was denying the election, steals a telephone from fellow solid member Ubah Hassan, a mannequin with a scorching sauce model.

Lichy thinks it’s a humorous prank. Hassan doesn’t discover the phone-hiding to be humorous or a prank and takes Lichy’s sun shades to indicate her, ostensibly, what a not-prank seems like. The 2 struggle about all of it episode lengthy, spurring the remainder of their cohort to leap in and take sides; the ladies gang up on Lichy, who, in response, cries. Lichy cries a number of instances.

Confronted with this struggle, Lyons marvels that she can’t fathom the immaturity at play.

At first, she asks for Lichy’s sun shades again, hoping to squash the bickering. Lyons sincerely believes Hassan will give them again if Lyons asks properly. Hassan says no, not properly. Lyons is shocked.

In regular life, and Lyons’s regular life in all probability, this conflict doesn’t occur. If it did, it might in all probability finish in all events feeling some sort of embarrassment. However that is Actual Housewives, and on Actual Housewives Ubah not solely refuses to present the sun shades again, however extends the kerfuffle till lengthy after the solar goes down, when sun shades usually are not essential.

Whether or not the solar is up or down, Lyons actively avoids the mess. When she realizes the tiff is nowhere close to over, she chats with the workers, after which hides away in her room and fiddles on her laptop. She doesn’t, as the opposite solid members select to, observe the argument into the new tub.

“As this factor is occurring, I’ve three totally different tasks operating on the similar time, so I’m working. So I needed to peace out and simply focus,” Lyons explains in a confessional. She will be able to’t even say the phrase “struggle” or “argument” or any apt synonym. She appears deeply humiliated by no matter is occurring. Embarrassment is a luxurious Housewives normally can’t afford.

On some stage, avoiding uncomfortable conditions whereas enjoying in your laptop is actual habits. Maybe the realest.

Jenna Lyons in all probability doesn’t care about one other season of RHONY. That’s refreshing.

What makes Lyons’s presence stand out is that this season of the Actual Housewives of New York Metropolis is a full reboot, the primary in Bravo historical past. The community didn’t renew the contracts of the present’s long-standing Housewives, a lot of whom had been on for all or many of the earlier 13 seasons — notably Ramona Singer, Luann de Lesseps, and Sonja Morgan. As an alternative, Bravo went with a youthful, extra various, and fewer Higher East Aspect set of ladies, together with Lyons, who got here out as a lesbian in 2011.

Regardless of the refresh and the brand new solid, RHONY can’t assist however really feel prefer it’s drawing on the previous for inspiration.

Lichy’s judgmental confessionals appear to be an imitation of Bethenny Frankel’s one-liners. Brynn Whitfield’s flirty one-liners think of one thing Sonja Morgan may say. Jessel Taank’s charming inelegance feels transported from unique New York solid member Alex McCord.

There are new dolls, nevertheless it’s producer Andy Cohen’s usual dollhouse. Familiarity isn’t an accident.

Jenna Lyons posing wearing an outfit made of white cloth and metallic mesh.
Jenna Lyons attended the Met Gala in 2015, which makes her too well-known to be an actual Housewife.
Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty Pictures

As Moylan identified, Housewives has develop into so huge that everybody, together with potential ’Wives, is aware of what works and what doesn’t work on TV. If Lichy, Whitfield, and Taank remind followers of one of the best elements of their older counterparts, it’s on goal.

Like professional basketball gamers, the brand new New York solid members are being judged on their efficiency this season to see in the event that they’re compelling sufficient for a contract renewal. Not directly, the promise of one other season entices these ladies to behave in methods which can be larger, extra explosive, extra scandalous, extra meme-able than they might usually behave. Additional employment can be vital for the ladies on the present who want Bravo visibility, particularly those that declare to be influencers.

Lyons desires no a part of that hustle, highlighting the entertaining gulf between her and her castmates.

The fights her castmates have along with her aren’t essentially about notably antagonistic issues Lyons is doing however that Lyons doesn’t should carry out her titular function — crying about sun shades, speaking about flirting with married males, speaking about their husbands who may not wish to have intercourse with them — the way in which they should.

As a lot as Lyons has to regulate to the present, the Housewives are additionally adjusting, some extra clumsily than others, to her. Not solely does she refuse to Housewife (verb); it’s exhausting for them to Housewife (verb) at her.

They wish to impress her however not come off as sucking up. They wish to struggle for one more season however don’t wish to be seen as foolish now that the collection’ cool lady confirmed up. They’re upset that they should humiliate themselves for TV and Lyons doesn’t. They’re mad at her, however they will’t actually say why they’re mad at her as a result of then they’d should acknowledge, to a point, their very own artificiality. It’s additionally exhausting to struggle along with her when Lyons has proven herself to be an alarmingly level-headed, empathetic one that embarrasses simply.

We’ve gotten so used to the rhythm and sample of how Housewives is meant to perform — solid members included — that seeing one thing upend that sample, making the Housewives squirm, is a brand new rush.

Lyons doesn’t appear to want the Bravo fame — the memes, the video clips, the fixed appearances on Cohen’s post-Housewives late-night discuss present Watch What Occurs Dwell (she’s solely been on ittwice)— that her cohort is dying to have. At one level early within the season, Lyons bemoans being the topic of a Web page Six article that outed her, making clear that the entire thing sucked. Her co-stars vocally agree along with her, however you possibly can see sparkles of envy of their eyes, maybe glimmers of fantasies about how intoxicating it might be to be written about on Web page Six.

Lyons has already been extra well-known than essentially the most well-known of the Housewives, a lot of whom are trapped in a stasis of not being well-known sufficient (see: multimillionaire Bethenny Frankel cracking and sucking, chaotically, on king crab legs on her TikTok).

As an alternative of superstar, Lyons is making a enterprise resolution. She’s on the present, as she implied in a profile with The Lower, as a part of a advertising technique to advertise her synthetic lash firm. That profile and seemingly each interview she does isn’t about what Housewives life is like, however reasonably, why she selected to be on a TV present she could be too well-known for. Like most beings residing in our inescapable actuality, Lyons finds herself doing issues she in all probability doesn’t like so as to exist comfortably on this world. It simply so occurs that entails lights, cameras, and Bravo. And I, for one, want no less than yet another season.

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