The biggest scandals to ever hit Bravo
Bravo sure has a knack for eliciting drama out of gorgeously-dressed, impossibly rich middle-aged women. From Teresa Giudice’s first table flip, The Real Housewives franchise has shown us that the network knows no bounds when it comes to explosive scandals. How could it with all the secret past lives, prison time, stints in rehab, and high-profile divorces?
While The Real Housewives might be responsible for the vast amount of Bravo-related scandals (if only because of the sheer number of them), they’re hardly the only Bravo stars embroiled in controversy. From the wait staff on Vanderpump Rules to the high-powered politics in Southern Charm, there’s not one single Bravo show that escapes without some mega-drama. What else would Andy Cohen have to talk about on Watch What Happens Live? From sexual assault and abuse claims to the nasty rumors that got one Atlanta housewife kicked off the series, these are biggest scandals to ever hit Bravo.
A Millionaire Matchmaker ‘house of horrors’
Millionaire Matchmaker didn’t get nearly the same attention as Bravo’s revolving cast of real housewives, but it’s not without its own scandals. In March 2018, the show came under fire after a California businessman who appeared on the series in 2011 was accused of sexual assault. According to People, Michael Leslie Bernback was arrested in 2015 “in connection with the alleged rape of two women” at his home.
KTLA 5 reported that police knew of at least eight suspected victims and had said Bernback “trolled adult websites” looking for women. LAPD Lt. Jim Gavin accused the businessman of running a “house of horrors” where women were allegedly drugged and raped. His home had “only one way in and one way out,” reported KTLA. In one instance, Bernback allegedly made a woman sign a waiver stating that their interaction was consensual, but she felt like it was not. “Most of these girls were going there with the idea they were having sex with him,” Gavin told People. “There is no argument there. The problem is he went over the line.”
According to the New York Daily News, Bernback was charged with eight felonies, but in 2018, his case was dropped in May 2018.
Juicy Joe’s juicy fraud case
Teresa Giudice went from being a star on The Real Housewives of New Jersey to a real housewife of the penitentiary. The Bravo starlet and her husband, “Juicy” Joe Giudice, were both slapped with prison time after an utterly scandalous scheme. According to People, they were “charged in a 39-count indictment with conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud, bank fraud, making false statements on loan applications and bankruptcy fraud” in 2013. The pair was “accused of hiding their fortune in a bankruptcy filing. Joe was also accused of failing to file tax returns between 2004 and 2008,” the mag reported.Teresa reportedly pleaded guilty to “submitting false loan applications when she applied for a $5 million mortgage,” reported Good Morning America.
Teresa spent nearly a year behind bars, and Joe was sentenced to 41 months in the slammer. At the time of this writing, he’s facing deportation…and a bitter wife. “I do blame him because if he was on top of everything then this wouldn’t have happened,” she told ABC News.
Thomas Ravenel’s not so charming charges
Bravo once allowed a housewife to threaten her co-star with a shard of broken glass and still appear in a reunion special, so that’s how you know it’s pretty bad that Thomas Ravenel’s controversy allegedly got him banned from the Southern Charm Season 5 reunion.
According to People, Ravenel was “charged with assault and battery in the second degree” after being accused of sexually assaulting his children’s nanny. The woman, named Dawn, claimed Ravenel trapped her in the master bedroom, “dropped his pants, blocked the door and ‘proceeded to rip [her] clothes off.'” Dawn eventually escaped. That accusation emerged after real estate agent Ashley Perkins accused the Southern Charm star of assaulting her mother, Debbie Holloway Perkins, following an October 2015 Tinder date. Ashley claimed Ravenel held back her mother’s arms and stuck his fingers where they weren’t welcome. Ashley claimed her mom signed a non-disclosure agreement in exchange for $200,000.
Ravenel ended up quitting the show and railing on Bravo for having “the right to fictionalize” his story. People reported that the charges could potentially be used against him in his ongoing custody battle with his ex, Kathryn Dennis, who also starred on the show.
The countess encounters legal woes
Luann de Lesseps shocked fans of The Real Housewives of New York when a string of unfortunate events led the star back to rehab and forced her to miss the Season 10 reunion. The downward spiral began when she announced in August 2017 that she’d be divorcing Tom D’Agostino after seven months of marriage. That December, the former countess was arrested after reportedly threatening to kill a police officer who tried to remove her and a man from a hotel room that wasn’t hers, reported Page Six. She was charged with “disorderly intoxication, battery on an officer/firefighter/EMT, resisting arrest with violence and threatening a public servant,” according to People. De Lesseps apologized for her behavior, claiming she was emotional because it was her first time in Palm Beach since her wedding (We get it: divorce is hard).
According to The Hollywood Reporter, the RHONY star “sought alcohol treatment” following her arrest but relapsed after her ex-husband and children sued her over selling their $8 million home. Co-star Bethenny Frankel staged an intervention for the troubled star, who then entered treatment for the second time in a year. “I had two or three of those [watermelon martinis], then I had, I think two bottles of rosé by myself and then I had probably a six pack of beer or something,” de Lesseps told Megyn Kelly (via THR). “I can’t have just one drink.”
Pack your buzzer and go
For a show that doesn’t have much drama beyond undercooked chicken and burned sauce, Top Chef certainly had one doozy of a scandal in 2007, when a Season 2 contestant was assaulted during an impromptu haircut after judging hours. According to The Huffington Post, Marcel Vigneron’s hair grew rather shaggy during filming, and he asked production if he could chop his locks. Producers repeatedly denied his request because they didn’t want any continuity errors, but they eventually told him that he could get a trim as long as one of the other contestants did it. Vigneron declined, and then wound up almost getting that haircut against his will.
What transpired started as a joke and quickly turned obscene when a group of contestants, who had been drinking that night, pinned him down while he was asleep and tried to shave his head. Vigneron reportedly called out for help. “In a flash I understood how frat pranks can morph into ugly acts of hazing, or how a rowdy bachelor party can become the scene of a crime,” wrote principal judge Tom Colicchio in a Bravo blog post. Colicchio admitted he wanted to send the entire group home after the harrowing event and let Vigneron win by default. However, producers vetoed that option; only one contestant was given the ax because he allegedly threatened Vigneron, which is against the Top Chef rules.
The RHOA dungeon debacle
Leave it to a real housewife to conjure up a rumor so bad it actually gets her fired and causes a full-on scandal. According to TMZ, Phaedra Parks got herself booted from The Real Housewives of Atlanta in 2017 for lying about a cast member conspiring to rape another cast member. Excuse us?
Parks reportedly sparked the rumor during filming when she told Porsha Williams that Kandi Burruss and husband Todd Tucker planned to drug and kidnap Williams, bring her back to their home, and sexually assault her. According to BET, Parks alleged the couple had a “sex dungeon” where they take victims. Williams, who was probably horrified if she believed this to be true, kept repeating the rumor throughout Season 9 like it was an actual fact. Burruss was angry and reportedly threatened to sue Bravo if they aired the clip where Parks plants the initial lie.
Honestly, the whole situation gives frenemy a new meaning, but Williams and Burruss have since patched things up. Burruss still does not have a “sex dungeon” (though she said she’s open to the idea). However, she did throw a star-studded Dungeon Party as a major clapback to Parks’ rumor.
Apollo pops the question in prison
Teresa Giudice isn’t the only Bravo star to spend time in the slammer. The Real Housewives of Atlanta had its own scandal when Phaedra Parks’ husband, Apollo Nida, landed in prison for mail, wire, and bank fraud. According to the Daily Mail, “Nida initially faced up to 30 years in prison for identity theft and money laundering totally up to $2.3 million.” He reportedly stole the identities of more than 50 people by setting up a fake debt collection agency to gather personal data. He then allegedly used those identities to do things like set up bank accounts to launder money, specifically from unclaimed U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development funds, and to cash checks from the U.S. Treasury and from the Delta Airlines pension fund. He also reportedly received fraudulent tax returns and set up car loans for fake vehicles through a fake car dealership. Nida pleaded guilty to “charges of fraud and money laundering” and was sentenced to eight years in prison.
He and Parks finalized a drawn-out divorce and custody arrangement in 2017, and by that time, the incarcerated Nida was already reportedly engaged to another woman. You should see the ring.
Jenni vs. Jeff
Jenni Pulos and Jeff Lewis’ friendship fueled more than a decade’s worth of Flipping Out episodes, but as it turns out, the home renovator may have actually flipped out on his longtime assistant-turned-executive producer. In 2018, Lewis shocked audiences when he revealed on his SiriusXM radio show (via People) that Pulos had allegedly reported him to Bravo for “abuse and victimization.” She reportedly claimed Flipping Out was a “hostile working environment,” but following a “time-consuming” investigation, Lewis’ name was cleared. “Her making this claim, it put my entire career in jeopardy. My family, my livelihood, everything,” he said (via People). “I just lost my job. I’m pretty sure of that. But I need to get in front of the story and I have to tell my side of the story. I’m a dead man walking, but I have to tell my story.”
The strange part is, none of this may be true. According to People, Pulos claimed Lewis abruptly fired her from Jeff Lewis Design following “an explosive lunch.” (She remained an executive producer). She told People that she never filed a wrongful termination or abuse and victimization claim against him.
Which version of this scandal is the real one? We may never know, and the status of the series remains up in the air.
Sonja leaves the townhouse
Sonja Morgan’s riches to rags story absolutely rocked The Real Housewives of New York. The star found herself embroiled in a devastating bankruptcy case following her divorce from J.P. Morgan heir John Morgan. It lasted nearly five years, and as fans of the show know, the star’s decision to move out of her townhouse was a painful plot point.
According to E! News, Sonja filed for Chapter 11 protection in 2010, and somehow, actor John Travolta was involved. Why? Her production company, Sonja Productions, reportedly took a major hit after she backed a Travolta flick called Flash Flash to Bang Time in partnership with another company called Hannibal Pictures. The film never happened because she allegedly couldn’t meet Travolta’s demands. Hannibal Pictures ended up suing her and winning a cool $7 million.
In June 2015, Sonja clawed her way out of her massive debt. According to E! News, she wound up paying about $9 million — significantly less than the nearly $20 million she initially owed. However, she was reportedly sued by her bankruptcy attorney in 2017 for about $350K, so that doesn’t bode well.
Jax Taylor’s cheating scandal
Jax Taylor didn’t have the best track record when it came to dating, but longtime fans of Vanderpump Rules were really crossing their fingers that the star had finally closed his wandering eye. Unfortunately, that didn’t appear to be the case in 2018, when he found himself embroiled in a cheating scandal so salacious that it remains a plot point on the show for a long time.
According to Entertainment Tonight, Taylor cheated on longtime girlfriend Brittany Cartwright with former SURver Faith Stowers. That’s not big news, considering Taylor cheated on almost every person he dated on the series. However, there was a deeper, more-insidious layer to this indiscretion. Leaked audio revealed that Taylor was trashing his girlfriend to Stowers post-hookup. He reportedly said he wasn’t attracted to Cartwright (and that’s after he reportedly persuading her to get D-sized implants).
In a Facebook Live interview (via Entertainment Tonight), Stowers claimed Taylor had been sliding into her DMs for an entire year. He even asked her to have a threesome with him and his longtime love. Stowers reportedly only gave him a chance because he claimed to have split with Cartwright. Despite the numerous arguments that erupted on-screen as a result of Taylor’s cheating, Cartwright opted to stay with her man and the pair got engaged in June 2018.
Frasier’s ‘magical night’
Is it ever not a scandal when a major TV star cheats on his wife with a much younger woman? That exact thing rocked the The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills during its very first seasons when Camille Grammer split from her husband, Frasier star Kelsey Grammer. The news of Kelsey’s affair hit extra-hard because he was so beloved in his role on the TV show. In an interview with Jimmy Kimmel (via the Daily Mail), Kelsey revealed he’d been cheating on Camille for a solid six months before they split. He reportedly fell for a British flight attendant “in the air” in 2009, and they spent a “magical night” together days later. In 2010, the the actor asked Camille for a divorce after a friend supposedly spilled the beans. The kicker? The flight attendant was about 26 younger than Kelsey.
In an interview with the New York Post, Camille said she believes Kelsey pushed her to do the reality show to keep her “preoccupied in California while he was having his affair in New York.” She said, “I don’t respect what he did to me and my family. I am not happy with the way it went down. When I signed on, I didn’t think I would be going through a divorce in the middle of shooting a reality show.”
Danielle Staub’s past life (or should we call her Beverly?)
Danielle Staub’s rap sheet is longer than the weave that was pulled from her hair on the night the cast of The Real Housewives of New Jersey was banned from the North Jersey Country Club. Back when she was known as Beverly Merrill, the starlet could have doubled as a character in Grand Theft Auto: Vice City because she somehow became embroiled in a botched drug deal that reportedly left Pablo Escobar’s cartel wanting her dead. According to Radar, Staub was working as a prostitute when she started selling drugs with then-boyfriend Daniel Aguilar, an “enforcer” in the Medellin Cartel. During a deal, $100,000 worth of cocaine was reportedly stolen, and Aguilar allegedly stuck his own neck out to save hers. He later got arrested by the FBI and spent nine years in prison.
In a separate incident, Gawker reported that the reality starlet was arrested “with six kilos of coke and $16,000 cash” in connection to a drug-fueled kidnapping plot. As the story goes, Staub’s neighbor, Carmen Centolella, was allegedly brokering a cocaine deal for Aguilar worth about $48,000. Staub supposedly took half the goods to Centolella’s for “testing,” where she was reportedly jumped by four men who ran off with the cocaine. Aguilar allegedly blamed Centolella and beat and kidnapped him. Aguilar and Staub allegedly demanded $25,000 ransom from Centolella’s father. However, Staub reportedly opted to rat out Aguilar, “cutting a deal” with prosecutors.
This whole thing kind of makes her 20 engagements look well-adjusted doesn’t it?