It has been a minute since I last touched down on the homoerotic tendencies, rumors, and dramas of the Real Housewives Extended Universe. Well here I am, ready to talk about the newly rebooted Real Housewives Of Miami, filmed in the city I currently live in (well, filmed mostly in Miami Beach and surrounding areas including Ft. Lauderdale but let’s not split hairs here). Honestly, it’s a solid Housewives season, bolstered by the fact that most of the women have very long and real relationships that remain in place even when the cameras are down. All Housewives shows are theater, but RHOM really does deliver costumes, dramatic stakes, lavish sets, etc. It’s firing on all cylinders when it comes to all six of Aristotle’s elements of drama. It is (spoiler alert) supposed to end with a wedding and instead ends with a funeral????
It also features model-turned-farmhand Julia Lemigova as a main Housewife, and Julia Lemigova is openly bisexual and also married to tennis star Martina Navritalova (whose history on trans athletes is not great btw!). She lives on a farm where she is very close with her pet goats. Her main storylines are having goats, saying goodbye to her teen daughters who are moving away, and possibly being in love with and/or romantically loved by her best friend Adriana de Moura.
Ahead of Real Housewives Of Miami’s premiere, I received multiple press releases describing Julia as “the first LGBTQIA+ Housewife,” which is just……not true? Unless you tack a bunch of qualifiers on it, which the press releases did not? Like, sure, maybe she’s the first openly bisexual Housewife who is a main cast member in the show’s first season (RHOM is a reboot, so it’s labeled as “season four” on Peacock, but for all intents and purposes, it’s a first season) and who is married to a woman during filming, but first LGBTQIA+ Housewife???? It’s even less true when the entire alphabet is involved! Braunwyn Windham-Burke of Real Housewives Of Orange County came out as gay in 2020. Noella Bergener, who recently joined Real Housewives Of Orange County, is bisexual. Though I don’t think she has ever put a label on it, Real Housewives Of Atlanta’s Kandi Burruss has talked multiple times on the show and on her podcast about having past intimate relationships with women. WHOMST WILL EVER FORGET KIM ZOLCIAK DATING DJ TRACY??????
Anyway, I think the mis-titling of Julia does speak to a larger issue of Bravo’s often perplexing portrayals of queerness and its frequent tokenizing of certain Housewives, including Housewives of color who join the super white casts. Instead of strangely and incorrectly touting her as an “the first LGBTQIA+ Housewife,” why not just say Julia talks about being bisexual on the show? Which is indeed a rare thing to be talked about in the Real Housewives Extended Universe! Housewives love to talk about “taking a dip in the lady pond” which yes is unfortunately how they word it, and many Housewives also love to ignore bisexuality exists at all, concluding someone is a lesbian if they admit to hooking up with women.
And the other straight Housewives of RHOM are constantly making weird comments to Julia in a way that goes unchecked in the reunion episodes. Many of the other Housewives quite obviously subscribe to the biphobic belief that Julia’s bisexuality makes her hypersexual. Lisa Hochstein, bizarrely, says she has a “fetish” for Julia. The women all seem to think Julia is this super sensual, flirty woman when really she’s just hot and bi? She lives on a FARM with her WIFE. She’s like a portrait of quaint queer domesticity. Most of the time Julia is on screen, I want to save her from these women!!!!! Like go be with your real friends, your goats. The heterosexual drama that these women are bringing into your life is not worth it, Julia!!!!
And, yes, sure, she does have a flirty vibe with her best friend Adriana, and let me be clear that my hyperbolic headline here does not actually include Adriana at all, because I really don’t really think Adriana is straight. She hasn’t really explicitly labeled her sexuality at all, and she tells Julia that she taught her that “love has no gender.” If anything, Julia’s friendship with Adriana is indeed the queerest part of RHOM, because whew these ladies are co-dependent!!!!! I do think they’re playing up some of their dynamic for the camera, but actually when you pay attention to some of the less overt moments (like Adriana getting jealous of Julia kissing Lisa at a sleepover night and Julia doing a “friendship proposal” with Adriana) and look at the ways Adriana and Julia interact on just an everyday basis, yeah, there’s something here! It’s romantic friendship at the very least!
The other Housewives on the show continue to be the worst kind of straight friends by always talking about how weird Julia and Adriana’s friendship is and constantly insinuating that something more is going on. Julia even gets asked if she’d ever cheat on Martina, and the implied part of that question is if she’d ever cheat with Adriana. Andy Cohen added fuel to the fire by asking Julia if Martina gets jealous of her friendship with Adriana, and here’s what Julia had to say:
“Martina is not jealous, and there is nothing to be really jealous about. I’m married, happily married, and love Martina. And, you know, Adriana is my best friend.”
“And I’m like this butterfly who is — people think I’m flirting, but I’m not actually flirting. Even my dress has butterflies. You know, it’s my way to communicate with people.”
Let’s be real: Andy Cohen only seems to care about stereotyping, tokenizing, etc. when it comes to gay men. This entire line of questioning just perpetuates biphobic assumptions and stereotypes!
Julia’s relationship with Adriana doesn’t look much different from the myriad co-dependent and somewhat romantic friendship duos of other Housewives programs. Like Bethenny and Jill, Kyle and Lisa Vanderpump, Kyle and Teddi more recently, Sonja and Ramona, and Cynthia and NeNe (okay, so that friendship has been over for a long time, but I always feel compelled to mention it when talking about fraught friendships on Bravo because the friendship contract moment resonated so deeply with me because I ALSO HAD TO SIGN A FRIENDSHIP CONTRACT with my best friend in high school lol). But because Julia is openly bisexual, the way the other women, straight viewers, and Andy Cohen respond to this friendship is different, tinged with assumptions and accusations that there’s absolutely something sexual going on.
Again, I do think there’s something queer here, but I don’t think it’s the spicy, sexy story the other Housewives and Andy Cohen want it to be. I think it’s complicated. I think we finally got an interesting and nuanced queer storyline in the Real Housewives Extended Universe, and I think it ends up being crowded out by the Straight Nonsense of the other cast members. I think Julia’s storylines would have been so much better if the rest of the cast were not so freakin straight. (Tbh I also think some of the other Housewives are weirdly dismissive of Julia opening up about the trauma of losing a baby many years ago, almost like they subconsciously see her bisexuality as being at odds with her motherhood.)
I want Julia to have more queer friends (and maybe she does; the thing about these shows is that we’re only getting a microcosm of these women’s lives). And I want Julia to be able to be bubbly and kind to other women without the straight people around her automatically jumping to the conclusion she wants to sleep with them. I also want Bravo to care about queerness beyond little statistics about representation.