It’s been a tough year for the Real Housewives community.

Over the past year, an unprecedented number of longtime cast members from the franchise have been let go from their respective shows. We’ve had to bid farewell to fan favorites like Dorinda Medley and Nene Leakes, as well as less-beloved stars like Teddi Mellencamp and Vicki Gunvalson.

One former housewife, Tamra Judge of The Real Housewives of Orange County, believes there is one particular factor to blame for the shakeups: ageism.

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Judge first alluded to this theory in a June podcast episode of Behind The Velvet Rope, where she shared that she had noticed an ageist pattern with Bravo’s casting choices, noting that “the ones they’ve hired have all been younger. So, I do think there’s some truth to that.”

These claims resurfaced on a recent episode of the podcast Brandi Glanville Unfiltered when former Real Housewife of Beverly Hills star Brandi Glanville asked executive producer Andy Cohen directly about the accusations.

Glanville told Cohen that both Judge and RHOC OG Vicki Gunvalson “said you were an ageist… that you were going against them because they got too old.”

Cohen, however, was quick to shut down the allegations. He responded,

“If you look at the women on our shows, there are a lot of women who are really thriving in their 50s and late-50s. Yeah, no. I don’t care for that [comment].”

real housewives ageism
RHONY cast members Luann de Lesseps (55) and Ramona Singer (63)

And he’s right. In fact, Bravo is one of the only networks to showcase older women. For the most part, women don’t get to exist on television past their thirties; just 17% of women on television are over age 40 and women are more likely than men to be pigeonholed into stereotypical gender roles like wife and mother. Because of these sad statistics, women in their forties, fifties, and sixties might consider themselves lucky to land a rare part as an archetypal wife/mother/grandmother, if anything at all.

Bravo’s Real Housewives franchise is one of the few places on television where older women are depicted as fully-formed humans who sometimes behave badly, rather than reduced to simple, one-dimensional maternal figures. On top of that, the Real Housewives is also one of the only franchises that show women ages 40+ as sexual beings.

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RHOP cast members Karen Huger (57) and Gizelle Bryant (50)

And it’s not just a one-off occurrence: the series is packed with women that are in their fifties, many who are older than Judge herself.

Tamra Judge is only 53 years old. And while Bravo has certainly brought in some younger cast members in recent years (RHOC castmate Gina Kirschenheiter is only 36, and Real Housewives of New York City star Leah McSweeney is 38), the franchise still largely centers on their older, longstanding heavy hitters.

Labeling Bravo as ageist is simply inaccurate when they are still giving a platform to stars like Lisa Rinna and Karen Huger (both age 57), Luann de Lesseps and Shannon Beador (both age 55), and Sonja Morgan (56). To boot, Ramona Singer is 63 freaking years old and just inked herself a fresh contract for another season of RHONY. So it hardly seems that older women are on their way out.

RHOBH cast members (from left) Lisa Rinna (57), Garcelle Beauvais (53), Erika Jayne (49), and Denise Richards (49)

Instead, Cohen chalked up Judge and Gunvalson’s departures to cast members whose storylines had simply run their course.

He said,

“We just felt like the show needed some new air. We just needed to kind of air it out and see where it went… Even though these two women – who are so identifiable with it and will always be and I hope will someday be back in some capacity – the show is still the show. And I was very happy about that. It needed to go in new directions.”

Glanville, too, seemed to disagree with the “ageist” allegations. She told Cohen,

“You’re the only person that hires middle-aged women in this entire town.”

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