What It’s Like to Watch ‘Real Housewives’ With 1,000 Fans

Many Bravo fans consider watching their favorite reality shows the ultimate comfort activity. They can sit back, relax, and unwind as they tune in to people bickering about things as petty as a pair of iconically loud clogs or as significant as a world-rocking cheating scandal. But what happens when Bravo fanatics are plucked off of their couches and placed into a room with thousands of other devotees—many of whom might even have a love more intense than theirs—to watch an episode together?

Well, it’s not exactly the pure, unforgettable chaos one might expect, but it certainly is a goddamn party.

Bravo fanatics poured into the Gold Stage event room at Las Vegas’ Caesars Forum on Friday afternoon during BravoCon in Las Vegas, drinks and snacks in hand and ready to get a glimpse at the Season 2 premiere of Real Housewives of Dubai—currently slated to debut sometime in 2024. RHODubai’s lack of formal release date made the event feel all the more exclusive for patrons who had spent their hard-earned cash to mingle with their favorite Bravolebs while enjoying special perks. And they were very much intent on getting their money’s worth.

Series cast members Chanel Ayan, Caroline Stanbury, Caroline Brooks, and Sarah Almadani emerged from backstage to introduce the episode, each clad in their singular kind of glam. Though, it’s worth noting that, like all of her looks in Season 1, Chanel brought the house down compared to her co-stars. Ayan also promised “lots of betrayal, lots of drama, and lots of sisterhood and fun.” While that sounds like a tall order for a series that had an undeniably tepid first season, the premiere—and the fan screening—delivered.

I’d prefer not to get slapped with an injunction by Bravo, so I can only reveal a few sparse details about the episode. But as someone who fell off with RHODubai after only a couple of episodes, I found myself legitimately enjoying what I was seeing. Maybe it was the buzz from the crowd (or the buzz from the crowd; the Gold Stage didn’t not have the faint smell of hard liquor), but dare I say, the women of Dubai might have found a groove compelling enough for me to keep watching in 2024.

It could also be the introduction of new cast member Taleen Marie, an American transplant to Dubai who packed her United States level of delusion with her to the United Arab Emirates. Marie says in the premiere that she left burgeoning music superstardom in the U.S. to follow her husband to Dubai, giving up a promising career under…Jamie Foxx’s record label? (A quick bout of my journalistic research finds that Foxx had a music publishing company called Foxx King that was founded in 2007; any continued success or legitimate projects remain scant despite a few cursory Google searches.)

Marie is a whole lot of fun—sometimes too much fun, given that half the premiere is about her allegedly falling over drunk at Beyoncé’s concert in Dubai in January of this year, which is another major topic of discussion in the premiere. Whether or not Marie’s vagina was seen remains a mystery that won’t be solved until the rest of the season airs. But regardless of that enigma, the audience already loved her judging by the amount of laughter she generated each time she was onscreen.

But what really captured the audience’s cackles was a hilarious back-and-forth at a lunch between Ayan and Stanbury. It seems as though the masterminds behind BravoCon’s scheduling knew exactly what they were doing in slotting this event last on Friday, given how much liquor was being poured from the second fans were let into Caesars Forum at 10 am. By the time the Real Housewives of Dubai screening rolled around nearly seven hours later, the audience was so imbibed that they were ready to laugh at just about anything, including Stanbury simply ordering a second glass of champagne.

But the laughter was infectious, as was all of the adoration. The lunch scene was bookended by Ayan in gorgeous, couture confessional gowns that drew gasps from the crowd each time they appeared. The row of three (maybe a little too loud) gay men behind me said it best: “Ugh! Now that is a confessional look!” I found myself nodding my head in front of them. You know what, gay guy? That is a confessional look!

Zach Dilgard/Bravo via Getty Images

Their earnestness reminded me of how nice it is to watch Bravo shows with other people, and not just alone in my apartment with no one else around—well, sometimes my boyfriend is there too; no he’s not imaginary, please stop asking. It brought back that old feeling of discovering these series for the first time, and latching onto them because of how absurd and hilarious they are. It also gave me a kick in the ass that I sometimes need, which is to keep in mind that some people watch these shows without a layer of viscous irony coating their brains. It’s refreshing to be around people who watch Housewives with a less critical eye, and a reminder to sometimes take things a little less seriously.

Will I do that? Probably not anytime soon—it is my job, after all. But next time I get a little too upset about cast members trying too blatantly to manufacture their own storylines, or nine episodes spent on litigating a dog with a funny name who was rehomed, I’ll remember this BravoCon experience. It was, somehow, wholesome. Now if only we can figure out a way to bottle this feeling and ship it out to everyone who runs a Bravo stan account on social media with 100,000 followers and the single most toxic presence online, the world may start to heal.

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