Real Housewives Who Became Top Dog When Somebody Else Left

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To quote American Horror Story, when a Supreme starts to fade, a new one rises to take her place. The same could be said of Real Housewives. As any longtime viewer will tell you, Housewives can’t stay fan favorites forever. In some cases, a Housewives exit give another star the chance to steal the spotlight.

Sometimes, these were the former top dog’s minions, who seemed to be waiting in the wings. Other times, it’s a rival who coasts to that status after victory. Amidst a trend of Real Housewives cast shakeups, we could see more of this on the horizon. Let’s look at some of the most memorable examples thus far.

Kyle Richards and Lisa Vanderpump – Real Housewives of Beverly Hills

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Remember Puppygate? Yes, Lisa Vanderpump‘s reign as one of the best Real Housewives ever crashed and burned over a dog named Lucy Lucy Apple Juice. Since Lisa left, Kyle Richards is the last OG standing on Real Housewives of Beverly Hills. Additionally, Kyle is one of the closest to Andy Cohen and always gets first chair at reunions.

Years after Kyle became top dog, she and Lisa are still in competition. Kyle mocked Lisa on the RHOBH Season 13 finale, while working with LVP’s favorite party planner. At the reunion, she revealed that Lisa shadily asked if Kyle was still on the show.

Of course, Kyle’s reign couldn’t last forever. Right now, it’s unclear if she’ll return next season. If Kyle does leave, then Sutton Stracke appears poised to take her place as top dog.

Heather Gay and Jen Shah – Real Housewives of Salt Lake City


For three seasons, Jen Shah ruled over the Real Housewives of Salt Lake City cast with an iron fist. Now, she’s reportedly top dog in prison. As the Queen Bee, Jen appeared to have narcissistic tendencies. In addition to, of course, defrauding the elderly. It was difficult to understand why her castmates kept supporting her. Especially Heather Gay.

With Jen behind bars, Season 4 allowed Heather to take center stage. And, boy, did she make the best of it. Heather’s beachside monologue about Monica Garcia is already the stuff of Housewives legend. The Bad Mormon author revealed a long-held plan to gather the “receipts! Proof! Timeline! Screenshots!” against Monica. She also rid herself of the toxic former friendship by revealing that Jen allegedly gave her the infamous black eye.

It looks like Heather will continue to rule the roost in Season 5. But does Jen still have a hold over her? Heather claimed to be free from Jen’s influence in the Season 4 reunion. But on Watch What Happens Live, Heather argued that “at least Jen was herself when she was defrauding the elderly”. She also hoped the former Queen Bee would be happy that the group exiled Monica.

Tamra Judge and Vicki Gunvalson – Real Housewives of Orange County

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The Real Housewives of Orange County star Vicki Gunvalson is the OG of OGs. Then, in Season 3, Tamra Judge arrived on the scene by declaring herself the “hottest housewife in Orange County”. For many seasons, they were in a never ending battle to be the loudest, most opinionated Housewife. Not to mention, like Vicki, Tamra is controversial.

But while Vicki got demoted to “friend of” years ago, Tamra’s kept a firm grip on her orange. This year, Tamra distanced herself from the Tres Amigas, and appeared on The Traitors Season 2. Tammy Sue isn’t a universal fan favorite, but there’s no denying that she’s still one of Bravo’s most talked about Housewives.

Kandi Burruss and NeNe Leakes – Real Housewives of Atlanta

NeNe Leakes in the Hunting Housewives trailer
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NeNe Leakes is inarguably one of the biggest Real Housewives of Atlanta breakout stars. Meanwhile, Kandi Burruss was already a successful musician when she joined RHOA Season 2. Kandi was an iconic cast member right away, and came to blows with NeNe pretty quick. She also held her own against Phaedra Parks, which gave us the famous “The lies! The lies! The lies!” gif. While NeNe came and went from RHOA, Kandi became synonymous with the show itself. Many have said they can’t imagine RHOA without her.

Alas, they’ll have to. After 14 years, Kandi is taking a break from the show. Who will become top dog in her place? Could NeNe return alongside Porsha Williams? Because she is already feuding with her.

Jessel Taank and Ramona Singer – Real Housewives of New York City

Jessel Taank
Photo credit: Bravo/YouTube

After 13 seasons, Bravo finally got off the Ramonacoaster. In this case, The Real Housewives of New York reboot star Jessel Taank emerged as top dog under different circumstances. Instead of leaving Bravo amidst racism allegations, Ramona Singer crashes premieres she was disinvited from. But at least she doesn’t hold an apple anymore.

Like Ramona, an initial impression of Jessel was that she’s “too much”. But while Ramona remained polarizing, Jessel became universally beloved by the season’s end.

We’ll see if the audience’s love affair with Jessel continues in RHONY Season 15. Despite lots of speculation that certain cast members were one-and-dones, everyone from Season 14 returns.