The shiny veneer that once protected celebrities is cracking, mostly thanks to social media, where everyone from the A-list to the D-list allows fans unprecedented access to their lives without the PR middleman. Fortunately, this gives us plebs a chance point out stars’ bullshit directly, especially when they’re trying to pull the wool over our eyes. That's exactly where @therealbadfashions—an Instagram page dedicated to calling out Bravolebrities on their fake designer clothes and accessories—comes in.
Run by Ben T., a 33-year-old accountant in San Antonio, @therealbadfashions documents the incredible fashion failures and fake-outs from members of the Bravo universe, especially cast members of the various Real Housewives franchises. Whether it's Real Housewives of New Jersey star Teresa Giudice's extremely suspect Chanel button-up top or Real Housewives of New York's Ramona Singer's questionable collection of supposedly designer bags, the page pokes fun at the knock-offs these celebrities claim are real.
"I think that when you're not just on reality TV but specifically a Housewife, there is a certain caliber that you need to go to," Ben, who started the page early this year, told VICE. "And I think the mentality changed when Erika Jayne joined Beverly Hills. Prior to Erika, housewives in general really didn't care about fashion or looks all that much. Sure it's always been on the back burner, but I think when Erika joined it shifted not just Beverly Hills, but the whole other franchises to be focused on designers and younger and rich and in your face."
The women on these shows are undoubtedly affluent to varying degrees, but some refreshingly wear their financial struggles on their chest, like Robyn Dixon of Real Housewives of Potomac, whose storyline this season involves a hefty bill for unpaid taxes. Meanwhile, other stars flaunt their excessive bank accounts through unhinged, garish designer outfits, like Dorit Kemsley and Jayne of Beverly Hills. "I do think Dorit saw Erika and saw that competition and was just like, Oh hell no like you're gonna go at a nine, I'm gonna go into 15," Ben said. "I call [Dorit] my queen of extranness."
Very often in the franchises, the question of a cast member's actual financial standing comes into question and becomes a vehicle for drama. Real Housewives of Atlanta's former stars Sheree Whitfield and Eva Marcille, Kemsley, RHOP's Karen Huger (who was caught wearing a questionable Fendi dress on camera), Giudice, and plenty of others have defended their bank accounts on- and off-camera. RHOA's former star Nene Leakes didn't mince words when she loudly proclaimed "I am very rich, bitch" during a meme-worthy argument to prove her status.
But with such scrutiny into their finances, it's understandable why a Real Housewife with possible bad credit and/or low funds in their checking account may want to keep up the appearance of extreme wealth. As Ben put it, they want to appear like they're spending the money when they actually don't or can't spend it. Sometimes, he believes they just don't know any better, and will take a piece from a stylist and put it on thinking it's Chanel or Balenciaga when it's more Chanell or Balloonciago.
From the evidence Ben has seen, he believes the biggest fake design offenders are Giudice and former Real Housewives of Dallas star LeeAnne Locken. The damning proof is Guidice's aforementioned Chanel button-up, which features incorrect lettering, and her iffy as hell Fendi x FILA swimsuit, and Locken's accessories, which Ben called habitually "wishy washy." He pulls from his and his friends' past experience working in retail, where people would routinely try to return fake designer goods to get cash back, and he identifies differences in each piece a housewife has worn compared to what's on the designer's sites. Sometimes it's pretty clear who is trying to pass a fake as designer. Case in point, a white ruched Chanel belt Locken wore in a magazine.
"It says Chanel on the waist but it looks lopsided," said Ben. "I know with fashion houses, they're not going to put out something that's wonky." He compared Locken's Chanel belt to the real belt as well as to photos of RHOA "friend" Tanya Paul who has worn what appears to be the real Chanel belt. When judging side by side, Locken's looks like it fell off a truck.
While it may seem frivolous and too easy to poke fun at the Housewives for faking their fashions, Ben assured it's not meant to be taken too seriously. It's, as he put it, just "a page full of sass and stupid."
"I think it is kind of a joke that you think of these women being so rich, and so successful, and better off in life than you and I," he said, "Then here you are wearing an obvious [fake]. There's irony, and I think there's hilarity in it. It's ridiculous to me."
There's nothing wrong with continuing to peer into the crack the veneer of the rich and famous. Eat the rich, even if it means chewing on a Canal Street Fendi bag that tastes like rubber.