"RHOSLC" scandal: Jen Shah's arrest and guilty plea
Grab some popcorn, sit back and enjoy reliving the most outrageous scandals on Bravo's "Real Housewives" franchises! The fierce and fabulous wives featured on the reality TV series — which are shot in multiple cities across America — have been seriously stirring the pot for more than 16 years now. With enough cringe-worthy controversy for a full-length film, Wonderwall.com is rounding up the biggest, baddest scandals in "Housewives" history — on screen and off…
This scandal began in March 2021 when People magazine reported that "Real Housewives of Salt Lake City" star Jen Shah was filming the show on the day she and her assistant, Stuart Smith, were arrested by the feds on charges of conspiracy to commit wire fraud and conspiracy to commit money laundering for allegedly carrying out a telemarketing scam for years. "Shah and Smith flaunted their lavish lifestyle to the public as a symbol of their 'success,'" Homeland Security Investigations Special Agent-in-Charge Peter Fitzhugh said in a press release. "In reality, they allegedly built their opulent lifestyle at the expense of vulnerable, often elderly, working-class people." It was reported that Jen and Stuart were both facing 30 years in prison for the first count and up to 20 years for the second. Throughout season 2 of the Bravo show, Jen maintained her innocence, but all that changed in July 2022 when she pleaded guilty (Stuart pleaded guilty months earlier). Though filming on season 3 had already wrapped when she changed her stance, E! News reported that the cameras came out again to capture confessionals on the women's reactions.
On Jan. 6, 2023, Jen finally received her sentence — six and a half years in prison followed by five years of supervised release. The government had pushed for a 10-year sentence. According to TMZ, following her sentencing, Jen was emotional and crying and voiced how sorry she was for her actions, reportedly stating, "with the proper medication I can now see what happened."
Keep reading to relive more "Housewives" stars' scandals…
"RHOM" Scandal: Lisa Hochstein's messy on-camera divorce
This season of Miami is guaranteed to be drama-filled thanks to Lisa Hochstein messy split from Lenny Hochstein. After 12 years of marriage, Lenny filed for divorce in May 2022. A friend of Lisa's told Page Six the reality star was "completely blindsided" by his decision. It emerged that he was dating a model three decades his junior, though Lenny claimed nothing happened with the other woman until "after the decision was made to get divorced," he told Page Six. The other woman was even referenced on episode 4 of season 5, where Lenny had a painfully uncomfortable hot mic moment where he confided to a friend that he was planning to divorce Lisa. A very complicated split ensued, which we'll see play out on camera. Lisa told People magazine in December 2022 that Lenny's behavior ruined any chance of a reconciliation, revealing, "I could never go back. He's done so many horrible things to me — too much has been said and too much has been done — that any chance of a reconciling is gone in my mind."
"RHOP" scandal: Sexuality scrutiny
Ashley Darby's marriage to Michael Darby was under scrutiny on "The Real Housewives of Potomac" for a long time. The cast began to question Michael's sexuality after he got grabby with co-star Katie Rost's boyfriend — touching his behind — on the dance floor at a party, but Michael dismissed the incident as playful. The couple maintained a united front even when Michael was accused of sexual assault after he allegedly groped a Bravo crew member while filming season 3. Cameraman Orville Palmer claimed Michael grabbed his backside and gave him "a flirtatious look," but in 2018, authorities decided not to prosecute Michael and the network allowed him to stay on the show. Then on season 4, while Ashley voiced her struggles to get pregnant after miscarrying, Michael raised eyebrows again when he made lewd remarks about co-star Robyn Dixon's husband, Juan Dixon, at a party. In 2022, Ashley and Michael announced they'd split; their separation was a major storyline on season 7.
"RHOA" scandal: NeNe Leakes' bombshell lawsuit
In April 2022, NeNe Leakes filed a bombshell lawsuit against Bravo, NBCUniversal, Andy Cohen and "The Real Housewives of Atlanta" production companies True Entertainment and Truly Original in federal court accusing them of racism and fostering a hostile work environment. NeNe — who starred on the show from seasons 1 to 7, returned part-time for season 8 and was back full-time for seasons 10 through 12 — claimed in court documents that they violated federal employment and anti-discrimination laws; she's asking for an unspecified financial payment to be decided upon during a trial. "NBC, Bravo and True foster a corporate and workplace culture in which racially-insensitive and inappropriate behavior is tolerated — if not, encouraged," her filing alleges, as reported by The Hollywood Reporter. NeNe further claimed that former friend and co-star Kim Zolciak-Biermann made racist comments for years and used the N-word yet wasn't reprimanded — in fact, she was given a spinoff — while NeNe was punished after she told execs. NeNe charged that NBC, Bravo and True "forced her out of the 'house she built,' denying her a regular role," THR reported. Just a few months after she filed, NeNe dropped the lawsuit in August 2022 without explanation.
"RHOP" scandal: The "Drag Me Monique" saga
A pretty intense physical altercation went down during season 5 of "The Real Housewives of Potomac" between cast members Monique Samuels and Candiace Dillard, which had ripple effects throughout the rest of the season. Their brawl took place at a winery after Candiace's taunted, "Drag me, Monique," and Monique retaliated by reaching across the table and refusing to let her go. The incident resulted in the ladies leaving with minor injuries. Both women later pressed charges against each other (the case was ultimately dismissed) and largely refrained from being in the same place while filming the rest of the series. Monique talked to People magazine about what happened, admitting responsibility and claiming she takes "full ownership" for her part "in the altercation" while pointing out she was "egged" on by Candiace. They had to come face-to-face again at the series' in-person reunion, and it seemed that the former close pals would never be able to mend their broken relationship.
"RHOBH" scandal: A pretty mess-y divorce — part 1
The saga of the self-proclaimed pretty mess herself, Erika Jayne, is epic. The beauty (aka Erika Girardi) made a name for herself on "The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills" thanks to her extravagant lifestyle (full-time glam team, anyone?), but in 2020, Bravo fans were shocked to learn that immense wealth might have been a facade. In November 2020, it was announced that Erika was divorcing lawyer husband Tom Girardi after 21 years of marriage, and a month after that, they were hit with a lawsuit accusing them of embezzling settlement funds from plane crash victims related to one of Tom's cases. Then things got even worse…
"RHOBH" scandal: A pretty mess-y divorce — part 2
In the wake of the troubling embezzlement allegations, more and more about Erika Jayne and Tom Girardi's finances came to light — including Erika's demand for spousal support, Tom's filing asking the court to block her request, Tom's claim he only had "a couple thousand" dollars in his personal bank account and more. Erika also accused Tom of infidelity, posting screenshots on Instagram of text messages implying he had an affair with a judge. By early 2021, things took an even darker turn: It emerged that Tom had been diagnosed with late-onset Alzheimer's disease and dementia and put under a conservatorship overseen by his brother. In June 2021, Hulu released the ABC News-produced documentary program "The Housewife and the Hustler," which made headlines as it dug deeper into the alleged financial malfeasance. Erika has repeatedly denied the allegations and denied having any knowledge of Tom's actions, but the hits have kept coming: In April 2022, she was named in a new $50 million racketeering lawsuit as the "frontwoman" in Tom's alleged fraud scheme.
"RHOA" scandal: Engaged to a co-star's still-married ex
The shocking revelation that Porsha Williams' newest fiancé is her friend and co-star Falynn Guobadia's estranged husband, Simon Guobadia surprised Bravo fans. Viewers saw Falynn introduce Porsha and Simon on episode 2 of season 13, which was filmed during the coronavirus pandemic in 2020. But less than a year later in April 2021, Falynn and Simon announced that they'd split after two years of marriage (it was later revealed he'd filed for divorce in January). In May, Porsha dropped the news that not only was she dating Simon, but that they were engaged after just a month of dating and planning to throw three different weddings! Allegations that both Falynn and Simon cheated surfaced, but both denied them.
"RHONJ" scandal: The table flip
Danielle Staub (left) and Teresa Giudice's (right) rocky relationship started out with a table-flipping scandal on season 1 of "The Real Housewives of New Jersey." Tensions mounted when then-co-star Dina Manzo discovered a tell-all book about Danielle's secret past that claimed Danielle had been engaged 19 times and had once been involved in kidnapping, prostitution and a drug cartel. Dina went behind Danielle's back to warn the ladies, who starting dropping Danielle as a friend one by one. Danielle tried to set the record straight by bringing a copy of the book to a cast dinner (she claimed most of it was exaggerated), but Teresa became so enraged that she flipped the table over while calling Danielle a "prostitution w****" (the scene became one of the most infamous in "Housewives" history). The drama continued for Danielle on season 2 when her ex tried to expose her sex tape and she ended up exiting the series. She returned for season 8 and somehow became close with Teresa, but they're reportedly on the outs again following Danielle's bridezilla behavior surrounding her 2018 marriage to Marty Caffrey (Teresa was shockingly her matron of honor), whom she divorced just months later.
"RHOD" scandal: Knife-gate
One of the most iconic moments from "The Real Housewives of Dallas" came courtesy of temperamental former castmate LeeAnne Locken (right). Cary Deuber (left) stayed at arm's length from LeeAnne on season 1 but struck a nerve when she discredited LeeAnne's doctor before LeeAnne had plastic surgery (Cary is a nurse and works with her husband, Dr. Mark Deuber, a plastic surgeon). LeeAnne went off about Cary to co-star Brandi Redmond, threatening to harm her: "I grew up with a lot of things in my hands, and they're not knives, they're just hands. But they work quite well." She even took a jab at Mark claiming she had proof he frequented a local country-western gay bar to engage in sexual acts with men. When Cary caught wind of LeeAnne's claims, she retaliated with a rumor about LeeAnne's now-husband Rich Emberlin's allegedly small manhood. They turned over a new leaf and apologized to one another on season 2 as LeeAnne promised to work on her anger management issues, but she remained in the hot seat at the reunion taping thanks to new allegations: The ladies claimed to have found an old police report filed by LeeAnne's ex-boyfriend who said she chased him with a knife during a domestic dispute. LeeAnne denied the report existed and threatened to leave the series for inaccurately portraying her as a villain, but she ultimately returned for season 3.
"RHONJ" scandal: Stripper-gate
Who could forget stripper-gate on "The Real Housewives of New Jersey"? During season 1, Melissa Gorga (right) was accused of trying to hide her stripper past by castmate Kim D. When sister-in-law Teresa Giudice (left) failed to have her back and refute the rumors, an all-out family war ensued. The truth eventually came out — Melissa was merely a bartender, not a dancer, at a strip club — but their relationship remained strained for seasons to come.
"RHOC" scandal: Braunwyn's roller-coaster year
Season 15 of "The Real Housewives of Orange County" sure served up its fair share of scandals as it played out against the backdrop of the COVID-19 pandemic. Some stars caught the coronavirus (Shannon Beador and Emily Simpson) while others doubted the seriousness of the virus early on (Kelly Dodd and newcomer Elizabeth Lyn Vargas). But no one had more of a roller-coaster year than cast member Braunwyn Windham-Burke. The mother of seven kicked off the year by revealing her battle with alcoholism and throwing a vow renewal with husband Sean Burke — and closed out the year in December by revealing she was a lesbian. Though out and open with a new girlfriend, Braunwyn said she would be staying married to Sean, though explained that they sleep in separate bedrooms and that she has "never" been attracted to men. She credited the revelation to her sobriety, telling GLAAD, "I know there's a correlation between the two. I know when you get sober and you start doing the work that goes into that, you start realizing a lot of the reasons you drank had to do with who you were on the inside." By mid-December, Braunwyn was often spotted out with girlfriend Kris, which caused the OG of the OC, Vicki Gunvalson, to comment on a social media post, "Go home and be with your 7 kids!"
"RHOBH" scandal: Brandi-gate
Season 10 of "The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills" involved a pretty salacious scandal that resulted in one cast member leaving the show entirely. The rumors of an affair between returning cast member Denise Richards and former star Brandi Glanville was the main storyline during the 2020 season. Denise firmly denied it despite seemingly incriminating text messages and details shared by Brandi. Denise maintained she wasn't in an open marriage with hubby Aaron Phypers — a point Brandi kept claiming was true — amid the messy she-said, she-said back-and-forth drama. Ultimately, we may never know whether or not the ladies were ever more than friends, as Denise decided to leave the show. She told "The Talk" in July that the rumors and the media coverage made her feel like she was in "kindergarten," and she further told The Post that her "openness" on the Bravo series "bit me in the a**."
"RHOSLC" scandal: The hospital smell
"The Real Housewives of Salt Lake City" kicked off its debut season with a bang in 2020, and within just a few episodes, there was already an outlandish scandal unfolding. Former pals Jen Shah and Mary Cosby clearly turned into frenemies thanks to a very specific insult — that they smelled like a hospital. Yep, Mary accused Jen of smelling "like hospital" on the heels of Jen's aunt's hospitalization. That strange comment didn't sit well with Jen, who accused Mary of "being mean" with her insult, which added insult to injury as she dealt with her aunt having both legs amputated. The truly bizarre exchange occurred on the very first episode of the show and spilled over to affect things throughout the season as it became clear these two cast members may never see eye-to-eye.
"RHOC" scandal: Cancer-gate
"The Real Housewives of Orange County" star Vicki Gunvalson found love again with Brooks Ayers (pictured) after splitting from husband Donn Gunvalson in 2010, but her co-stars had a bad feeling about Brooks from the get-go. Shortly after his season 7 intro, he told the ladies he'd been diagnosed with stage 3 Non-Hodgkin's lymphoma. Vicki's pals, Shannon Beador and Tamra Judge, caught wind of a rumor that Brooks was faking his illness, but Vicki came to his defense. Her five-year relationship with the cancer con artist caused a serious rift with her castmates — even her daughter, Briana Culberson, refused to believe the lie — until Vicki finally came to her senses and dumped him in 2015. Following their breakup, Brooks admitted to faking medical documents to prove he was sick and he was slapped with a lawsuit from Vicki for $266,000 in personal unpaid loans. Luckily, Vicki's love tank is full again: She's moved on with retired police officer Steve Lodge, who proposed to the O.G. cast member in April 2019.
"RHONY" scandal: Tom drama
Tom D'Agostino came onto "The Real Housewives of New York City" like a wrecking ball! When Luann de Lesseps (middle) debuted him as her new boyfriend during season 8, castmates Sonja Morgan (left) and Ramona Singer both revealed they'd previously dated the businessman and were upset with her for breaking girl code. The former countess, who was previously married to Count Alexandre de Lesseps, got engaged to Tom anyway in February 2016 after just nine months of dating. To make matters worse, co-star Bethenny Frankel showed Luann photographic evidence of Tom cheating, but she still went forward with their wedding that December. It was no surprise that they split just eight months later, but the divorce had a lasting impact on Luann. She was arrested for drunk and disorderly conduct in Florida on Christmas Eve, which was close to the exes' one-year wedding anniversary. She's since completed two short stints in rehab for alcohol addiction and scored her own cabaret show, but is currently back in hot water for violating probation. Gee thanks, Tom.
"RHOBH" scandal: Puppy-gate
Lucy Lucy Apple Juice was definitely the straw that broke the dog's back on "The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills." Following a dramatic she-said, she-said argument over the pooch during season 9, O.G. cast member Lisa Vanderpump (left) announced she wouldn't be returning to the show. The drama began when Dorit Kemsley (right) adopted Lucy from Lisa's rescue organization, Vanderpump Dogs, then gave the pup to someone else after it nipped one of her kids. The new owner then surrendered Lucy to a local kill shelter, and Lisa stepped in to save her yet again. Though Dorit thought she had hashed it out with Lisa, Lisa's rescue associate, John Sessa, stirred the pot by telling the story to "RHOBH" stars Kyle Richards and Teddi Mellencamp on camera. A full-on feud erupted when another co-star, Lisa Rinna, claimed Lisa V. manipulated John to do her dirty work because she was still harboring bad feelings. Teddi emerged with screenshots of texts from John asking her to go along with the ruse, which Lisa V. then countered with her own set of texts asking him not to spread word of the ordeal. The ladies were still skeptical of Lisa V. and accused her of secretly selling one-sided updates to the tabloids, which led to an epic showdown with now-former BFF Kyle. Lucy has since found a loving forever home, but Lisa V. remains on the outs with everyone.
"RHOA" scandal: "Close your legs to married men" advice
Kim Zolciak-Biermann (left) and NeNe Leakes (right) started out as the best of friends on season 1 of "The Real Housewives of Atlanta," but they ended up full-fledged enemies over a scandal surrounding Kim's wealthy and mysterious boyfriend at the time, "Big Poppa." Voicing her disapproval, NeNe spread rumors to other castmates claiming he was actually married and Kim was just using him for money. Kim tried to keep all details about her man private, including his real name, but things came to a head at the end-of-season reunion taping. After it finally came out that he was married but allegedly planning to leave his wife, NeNe erupted on Kim (she even had to be held back from getting physical), shouting, "Close your legs to married men!" NeNe still has bad blood with Kim to this day, though Kim split with "Big Poppa" soon after and married NFL player Kroy Biermann in 2011. The next year, Kim left the series for her own Bravo spinoff, "Don't Be Tardy," which featured her hubby and six kids.
"RHONJ" scandal: Giudice jail time
In hindsight, Teresa Giudice's drama with her sister-in-law must feel menial after she got into major trouble with the law during season 6 of "The Real Housewives of New Jersey." She and husband Joe Giudice, who paraded their lavish lifestyle on TV, raised government suspicion after they filed for bankruptcy and they were soon accused of committing mail, wire, bank, bankruptcy and tax fraud. Teresa vehemently denied rumors of their financial woes when confronted by the cast, but the legal scandal became too big to cover up when she and Joe were both indicted in 2014. Teresa claimed she was unaware of the crimes and had blindly signed paperwork Joe gave her. She was given a lesser jail sentence (15 months) than her hubby, who was sentenced to 41 months behind bars. The court allowed them to serve time separately so that one parent could remain home with their four children, but they were also slapped with $414,588 each in restitution. Teresa returned to the series after being released two months early in 2016, but Joe was deported back to Italy following his prison stint, after which their marriage ended.
"RHOBH" scandal: That infamous limo fight
Throughout season 1 of "The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills," sisters Kyle Richards (left) and Kim Richards (right) fought frequently over petty drama, but there was a much larger scandal brewing underneath the surface. Castmates began noticing Kim's often erratic behavior, but Kyle maintained her sibling loyalty and stayed mum until her sister went for blood on the finale. While they were leaving a party with co-stars in a limousine, Kim accused Kyle of stealing their family's inherited vacation house in Palm Springs, California. In the now-infamous limo-fight scene, Kyle finally snaps and outs her sister's alcohol addiction, screaming, "You are a liar, and sick, and an alcoholic. That's right. I said it now, so everybody knows." Kim subsequently entered rehab and made amends with Kyle but continued to struggle with her sobriety on the series. In 2015, she was arrested twice: first for public intoxication, resisting arrest and battery on a police officer after an altercation at the Beverly Hills Hotel and then for shoplifting. Kim's back on the wagon as of late but is only making guest appearances on the show.
"RHOA" scandal: The scepter
Since her "The Real Housewives of Atlanta" intro on season 5, Kenya Moore (right) just didn't get along with Porsha Williams (left). They managed to remain civil until Kenya started trash-talking Porsha's failing marriage to former NFL pro Kordell Stewart, accusing her of being his beard who was in a bogus relationship for good publicity. The scandalous feud escalated during the reunion taping; Kenya came in hot, toting a megaphone and a jewel-encrusted scepter to ensure Porsha couldn't talk over her when she accused Porsha of cheating and not being deserving of everyone's pity over her divorce. Porsha lost her cool and engaged in a violent mega brawl with Kenya, leading to her arrest for assault. Porsha has since apologized for getting physical, but her friendship with Kenya remained rocky.
"RHOC" scandal: A "naked wasted" mission
Gretchen Rossi didn't have it easy being the new girl on season 4 of "The Real Housewives of Orange County." O.G. cast members Tamra Barney and Vicki Gunvalson accused her of being a gold digger over her romance with Jeff Beitzel, who was 24 years her senior. Gretchen caught a ton of flack for partying and vacationing in Lake Bass without her late fiancé, who suffered from leukemia. But she maintained her genuine love for Jeff and spoke only of the emotional toll his illness took on them both. Upset by the scandal, Tamra plotted to get Gretchen "naked wasted" at her tequila-tasting party (pictured) and, hopefully, make her do something embarrassing. Her plan sort of backfired when Gretchen disappeared into a bathroom with Tamra's eldest son, Ryan (they both claim nothing happened), but the drunk shenanigans on the episode have gone down in history. A year after Jeff's 2008 death, Gretchen caused more controversy by dating Slade Smiley, who was previously involved with co-stars Jo De La Rosa and Laurie Peterson. She and Tamra managed to mend their friendship by season 8 (Gretchen's last on the series) — and Gretchen and Slade welcomed a baby girl in 2019. Just for the record, Gretchen reportedly got $2.5 million from Jeff's life insurance policy.
"RHOBH" scandal: Bunny-gate
Who would've thought an adorable stuffed bunny could cause so much controversy on "The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills"? Lisa Rinna joined the cast for season 5 and quickly got on Kim Richards' bad side by talking about Kim's sobriety behind her back (Lisa told the ladies she was worried Kim was close to death). Kim retaliated during a girls' trip to Amsterdam, threatening to expose something about Lisa's husband, Harry Hamlin. The heated argument ended with Lisa throwing her wine on Kim and breaking her glass on the dinner table. They finally met up to talk on season 7, but things got out of hand again with Lisa trying to bring up Kim's multiple arrests in 2015. As a peace offering, she gave Kim a plush bunny for her new grandchild but it all ended in tears (pictured) when Kim returned the gift at the reunion claiming it had "bad energy." Bunny-gate emotionally affected Lisa so much, she brought it up again on season 9 when she crossed paths with Kim at a party and they finally agreed to start fresh.
"RHOA" scandal: Phaedra's lies
It feels like all Phaedra Parks (right) did on "The Real Housewives of Atlanta" was spur scandals after she joined the series for season 3. First, the ladies questioned new girl Phaedra over misinformation about her baby's due date. They believed she was trying to cover up the fact that she got pregnant during a conjugal visit with her then-husband, Apollo Nida (left), while he was still in jail. Phaedra never copped to the obvious truth even when son Ayden's birth clearly didn't match her timeline, but she did find herself in a whole new mess with Apollo come season 6. Their marriage hit a low after co-star Kenya Moore claimed Apollo secretly contacted her to hang out, which didn't matter much in the scheme of things because he landed back behind bars the next season after he was sentenced to eight years in prison for identity theft with mail and wire fraud. Phaedra filed for divorce in 2014 and continued to be at the center of controversy on her own. She was fired from the show following season 8 after confessing to spreading false rumors after claiming co-star Kandi Burruss and her husband, Todd Tucker, tried to date rape castmate Porsha Williams.
"RHOP" scandal: A rented mansion
Karen Huger (pictured) had a hard time copping to her financial issues when news of husband Ray Huger's tax scandal hit "The Real Housewives of Potomac" on season 3. The other ladies grew suspicious after Karen discreetly sold her coveted Potomac mega-mansion for under its value a season prior. She said Ray, whom she boasted was "the black Bill Gates," wanted to downsize when their daughter left for college, but she paraded a new 10,000-square-foot house instead. Co-stars Gizelle Bryant, Ashley Darby and Robyn Dixon caught wind that her home was a staged front and she was actually residing in a small apartment nearby. Looking for answers, they showed up at Karen's door disguised as pizza-delivery men, but she wasn't home. Karen maintained that she was personally debt-free even after word of Ray's legal troubles surfaced in 2017 (he was nailed for millions owed in federal back taxes). Upset with their intrusive inquiries into her personal finances, she hosted a (ridiculous) press conference for her castmates to explain that her and Ray's bank accounts were separate. She became enraged when Gizelle showed up in a "God Bless the Hugers" shirt, but they've since moved on and learned not to press Karen about anything money-related (her finances are still largely a mystery).