I’m still reeling from the awesome premiere of Real Housewives of Salt Lake City. It had everything a Housewives series should have, and then some! Money, insane fashion looks, a vow renewal, a marriage contract based in seeming incest, diversity, Mormons, party crashers and strippers, Botox. The. List. Goes. On.
Bravo has had a stupidly hard time understanding how diversity and inclusion works on their shows. From the beginning series have been segregated by race. Finally, they are casting women of varied racial and ethnic backgrounds to coexist on the same show! I guess the reckoning from Vanderpump Rules made them re-direct positively. Either way, RHOSLC is what Real Housewives should look like in 2020. Lisa Barlow, Mary Cosby, Heather Gay, Whitney Rose, and Meredith Marks all left me wanting more. But Jen Shah is the one who truly impressed me by speaking so openly about real life social issues right out of the gate.
In an interview with E! News, Jen talked about what it was like growing up being Tongan and Hawaiian in a mostly white Salt Lake City. “It was difficult just because I was different and a lot of people thought I was Black growing up because they didn’t know. They just knew if you’re not white, you’re Black, and so that’s just what they thought.” Jen continued saying, “we do have a large Pacific Islander, Tongan population here. But yeah, a lot of times people think I’m Black and obviously my family is, so that’s just usually what they think.”
Jen discussed how hard it was to grow up in Salt Lake City because she was considered different. “I had to work 20 times harder than my male counterparts here, not only because of me being a minority but the religion too… It’s like if somebody could choose every single way to be different than where they’re at, that’s basically what I did.” Because she differed from the status quo, Jen has “been on the receiving end of racism” and has had to “have difficult conversations about race with people who are more conservative and close-minded in Salt Lake City.”
Jen also shared, “here in Utah there’s a saying, ‘They’re the nicest racists you’ll ever meet here in Utah,’ and the reason why people say that is because it’s not like Alabama or down South where they will just tell you to your face, where my kids have been called the N-word to their face.”
In Salt Lake City, Jen explains, racism is more covert. “They take it in a much more ignorant fashion where it’s like, ‘Oh wait, I didn’t know that me saying this would be so offensive.’ It’s like they say it to your face but with a smile type thing. So there’s been a lot of conversations. I was that mom that was running to the principal’s office because I didn’t appreciate someone calling my son ‘chocolate boy’ on the playground or just things like that where other parents didn’t see the real issue with it or they thought it was harmless and it’s like, ‘No, it’s not. It’s offensive.'”
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Jen has been through it. She’s also real and fabulous. I can’t wait to watch next week!
TELL US- WHAT DO YOU THINK ABOUT JEN’S COMMENTS? HOW MUCH DID YOU LOVE RHSLC? IF YOU DIDN’T, WHY?!
[Photo Credit: Chad Kirkland/Bravo]