Casting Call: How to Be a Real Housewife!

Reality TV casting director Barbara Barna Abel give the inside scoop on what it takes to become one of those Housewives we love to hate!
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Casting Call: How to Be a Real Housewife!

Reality TV casting director Barbara Barna Abel give the inside scoop on what it takes to become one of those Housewives we love to hate! PLUS: What’s premiering and who’s casting…

-Barbara Barna Abel

Real Housewives of Miami

I may be stuck with my laptop in the February gloom of New York but that doesn’t mean I can’t thrill vicariously with the sex and sizzle of the Miami heat.  Yes, I’m talking about the premiere of Real Housewives of Miami Tuesday night. Caliente! (Meet the cast at

It’s hard to believe but it’s been nearly five years since we first met the cougars of Coto de Caza, aka the Real Housewives of Orange County. With the exception of DC, I’ve adored them all and the unsung heroes of this cultural watershed are the casting directors who work unbelievably hard to find the women we have come to know and sometimes love to hate.

Last week in the comments section of my column, Deborah asked how the Real Housewives are chosen. Without giving away all the mystical arts of reality casting I can tell you for any show on any network the number one requirement is PERSONALITY, PERSONALITY, PERSONALITY.  

No personality is too big. You must bring it all the time, every time.  And you must be willing to “go there” — wherever “there” is for that particular show and network.

Which brings us to Bravo. Any fan of the Real Housewives juggernaut knows that Bravo’s version of “there” is very nearly off the charts at this point. Each of the Housewife “franchises” is produced by a different production company but all conform to certain criteria. Once they’ve put a check next to Big Personality, Reckless Willingness To Live Out Loud, and Prone To Feuds they look for:

Can you imagine this woman holding an orange in a knockoff Azadine Alaia staring down from a giant billboard in Times Square? If not, unlikely she’ll make it as Housewife. Housewives means glitz and glamour and sometimes downright tacky (Jill Zarin’s apartment renovation).

It’s aspirational and selling the American Dream in its own wacky Housewife way.  None of these women come from old money or have advanced degrees.  They are – pretty much across the board — self-made, extremely hardworking gals. Even The Countess is a registered nurse.   


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4 thoughts on “Casting Call: How to Be a Real Housewife!

  1. When casting for experts, would you say that the same sort of guidleines with the PERSONALITY PERSONALITY PERSONALITY advice apply to fashion, design, cooking, etc..experts trying to break into reality TV?? Or do you pay more attention to their skill set rather then personality?

  2. Great question and so glad you asked! I’ll go into detail in my next post but without question the same guidelines apply. Personality is key because if you’re credible but boring no one will watch.

  3. What? If you earn less than 45K, you’re not worth their time??? These are the folks who need help the MOST. I know plenty of people who have college degrees, make less than 45K and have been unemployed for more than one year. I’m one of them. I’m also 55 years old and face age discrimination. Huff Post recently published an article entitled: Over 50 and out of work? You may be out of luck! As usual Arianna and her staff are quite correct!

  4. Just wondering if anyone wouwoulike to know the real red neck,country house wife's of wheel Tennessee live . Not a lot of money but lot of hard work and fun. Nothing like I have seen on tv.

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