"Real Housewives" Revealed

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ESSENCE.COM Nov, 21, 2008

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As the new “Housewives” from Jersey make their mark on Bravo and “The Real Housewives of Atlanta” film their second season, we’ve taken note of the network’s formula and have discovered the key players cast.

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Sheree Whitfield quickly became the cast member viewers love to have. The former NFL wife has a love affair with fashion like the other Queen Bees and is finally launching her own fashion line, She By Sheree, which we’ll get to see in Season 2 this summer.

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It’s Jill’s way or the highway as she keeps the New York “Housewives” cast in line. Like Sheree, she also has her hand in fashion, as she runs a fabric company with her husband, Bobby. Even when she’s not looking, drama has a way of finding her, and charity fundraisers aren’t exempt.

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A love of fashion seems to go hand-in-hand with a knack to run things, as Teresa Giudice adds spice to “The Real Housewives of New Jersey” cast and looks to get back into the fashion industry one day. Like Sheree, she shares that she keeps it real, but debating getting a boob job on-screen may impact her credibility.

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It’s a job in itself to keep up with businesswoman Lisa Wu Hartwell who has her hand in fashion, real estate, jewelry design and much more up her fly sleeves. Of the eccentric characters of the “Housewives” shows, there’s always one lady who’s got her head on a little tighter and that viewers relate to the most, and Lisa reigns in the south.

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If “Sex and the City”‘s Charlotte York had a spunky cousin, she’d be Bethenny Frankel. Like Atlanta’s Lisa Wu Hartwell, she is moving at warp speed with her many projects and earning new fans along the way. The two also share a passion for staying fit as Bethenny promotes her new book, “Naturally Thin: Unleash Your Skinnygirl & Free Yourself from a Lifetime of Dieting.”

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The Jersey show’s petite working woman to join Bethenny and Lisa is Dina Manzo. She juggles her roles as interior designer, event planner, wife and mother in style.

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With groups of opinionated women, there is never a dull moment. Yet somehow in each cast there happens to be one that stands out from the rest when it comes to drama. For the Georgia clan, it’s NeNe Leakes who is the life of every party she enters (and we’re sure she would have rocked Sheree’s birthday party . . . if she had made it past the door).

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Ramona Singer is the loudest one of the bunch, much like NeNe, and has no qualms about saying exactly what’s on her mind. The two also can relate to being the life of the party, raising teen-aged children, attending to ambitious husbands, while still having a wisecrack to spare.

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The firecracker lighting up the Jersey crew is Caroline Manzo. The feisty redhead is as loyal as they come—and doesn’t hold back when she feels crossed.

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A group of well-off women wouldn’t be complete without the trappings to remind you of their deep pockets. Deshawn Snow isn’t returning for season 2 of “The Real Housewives of Atlanta,” though she definitely left her mark on the first with her affinity for the finer things of life—at any cost. The stay-at-home mom left many scratching their heads on what exactly a governess does when she requested the help of one for her new home.

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For viewers who didn’t know what exactly Deshawn’s governess would do, LuAnn de Lesseps proclaiming herself as a Countess on the New York show didn’t help. Like DeShawn, she likes things prim and proper and even has a book deal to share her etiquette tips.

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Jacqueline Laurita has plenty in common with DeShawn including being described as the peacemaker of the group and looking to expand their families with more babies. The two also are all about spoiling themselves and are the pampered princesses of their casts.

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On every “Housewives” franchise there is character like none you’ve seen before. For the Atlanta bunch, it’s Kim who we still haven’t figured how she got on the show since her significant other is married to someone else. Her off-tune singing and description of herself as almost Black, make her the ultimate scene stealer.

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In the Big Apple the “Housewife” who breaks the mold is the quirky Kelly Killoren Bensimo. She has conquered the fashion and publishing worlds of the city and shows no signs of slowing down. Like Kim, she has two daughters who are a big part of her life.

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Kim isn’t the only housewife getting down with the big wigs, as Danielle Staub shares her interesting line of celebrity boyfriends. Like Kim and Kelly, she has two daughters who she is raising.

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With similar casts around the country, the drama is inevitable for this reality cult addiction. “The Real Housewives of Atlanta” still are the reigning ratings queens for the network and we’ve rounded up awards for the craziest moments of the first season, as the show returns this summer.

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Fashionista Sheree Whitfield rocked the hottest designs throughout the show. Though the former boutique owner has the eye for her own collection and is fashion forward, she might have made millions of potential future clients nervous with the fashion debacle of her design samples. We loved the designs, but as the seamstress dropped off the samples at her doorstep, we couldn’t help but think Fashion Roadkill.

Read our exclusive interview Sheree »

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Covering a buddy’s butt—literally— as she changes clothes in a parking lot seems like a true sign of friendship. But it wasn’t good enough for Kim, as she quickly turned on NeNe after hearing some gossip. She then trashed the other wives to Sheree—the same acquaintance she talked about earlier in the show.

Read our exclusive interview with Kim »

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Diamonds are a housewife’s best friend it seems. All the ladies wore exquisite pieces throughout, and the winner for best bling goes to DeShawn, who shopped for jewelry throughout the show. We’re sure she’ll jazz up her crown with shimmer and shine.

Read our exclusive interview with DeShawn »

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“Don’t be tardy to the party."

NeNe’s hairstylist describing Sheree’s fashion event with no clothes as “dreadful” was certainly unforgettable. But the show’s most memorable phrase remains “Dont be tardy to the party.” NeNe sang the line in her signature southern drawl while helping Kim listen to country songs for her album. Too bad they didn’t take that advice, making a fashionably late appearance to Sheree’s birthday party, only to find NeNe’s name absent from the list.

Read our exclusive interview with NeNe »

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DeShawn’s non-fundraising event.

The lofty goal of hosting an impromptu fundraiser for her foundation for young girls with the goal of garnering $1 million in a single night was more than ambitious. Unfortunately, not a single bid was made. DeShawn’s heart was in the right place, but those in attendance didn’t have their hands in the right place—their pockets. But DeShawn did make $30,000 from the event and continues to receive support for her foundation.

View photos of DeShawn and her family »

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After she launches a fashion career, Sheree Whitfield might want to think about pursuing acting. Her bright smile never faltered as she warned Lisa through her pearly whites not to expect her to strike a pose with her nemesis NeNe at Ed’s birthday bash. The subtitles will catch you every time.

View Sheree’s person photos »

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With his round face and slicked-down hair, 18-month-old EJ is the perfect cuddly combination of Ed and Lisa. Kim’s daughters make a close second with their rock star style and crusade to get their mom to quit smoking.

Read our exclusive interview with Ed Hartwell »

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Lisa Wu Hartwell is definitely the standout businesswoman of the crew, working to be a jack of all trades and profitable in them all. She’s already dabbled in music, film, real estate, jewelry, baby clothing, a women’s shirt line called Closet Freaks, and she shows no signs of slowing her bank roll.

Read our exclusive interview with Lisa Wu Hartwell »

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DeShawn’s Sunset BBQ.

Once settled into her new house, DeShawn had the perfect idea to bring all the ladies and their families together for a sunset BBQ. She called and they all agreed to come. Well, on the big day, Sheree and Kim were a no-show. Kim’s excuse: She didn’t want to sit around eating chicken all day. Neither lady gave DeShawn a courtesy call to explain their absence. Where’s the southern hospitality?

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Basketball star Eric Snow built a house fit for a queen—and DeShawn is enjoying her reign. We’re sure there are parts of the compound she probably has never seen or stepped foot in before, but that’s what a governess is for, we guess.

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Lisa Wu Hartwell’s NFL hubby, Ed Hartwell, has an unfair advantage, because he’s the only husband we saw in a Speedo exposing his buns of steel, but what really makes him a favorite is his devotion to Lisa. The doting husband served his ill wife homemade chicken noodle soup in bed. Plus, he can make jewelry. Somebody applaud that man!

Read our exclusive interview with Ed Hartwell »

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You won’t ever have to wonder what NeNe Leakes thinks of you. Clearly, the most outspoken of the ladies, she never leaves those who meet her with lukewarm feelings. The party officially begins when she comes in the room—which is exactly how she likes it—and CNN’s Anderson Cooper likes it, too.

Our complete Atlanta housewives coverage »

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Who is Big Poppa?
Much to the disappointment of fans, the identity of Kim’s secret “fiancée” and benefactor remains a mystery. Now that the engagement is off, the bigger mystery is how she will continue to support her shopping sprees and chain smoking without his credit card.

Our complete Atlanta housewives coverage »

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