“The Real Housewives of Salt Lake City” are rich. They’re beautiful. They’re striving for perfection. And, they keep telling us in their first episode, they’re an “elite social group.'”
Is perfect the word you’d use for people who call themselves “elite”?
Bravo’s latest incarnation of the “Housewives” franchise kicked off Wednesday night, and began as a bit of an ad for the state of Utah, extolling our “magnificent mountains and world-class ski slopes.”
But most of the 75-minute premiere was devoted to introducing the six cast members and letting at least a couple of catfights out of the bag. Here’s what happened:
We go home with Jen Shah — to her huge house — and meet her husband, U. assistant football coach, Sharrieff Shah, and her two sons.
Jen says she moved to Utah from Hawaii when she was 6 or 7, and that she’s “Tongan and Hawaiian and a little bit of Chinese. But people in Utah have no clue what I am. In Utah, I’m Black. Because they don’t know any better.”
After five years of marriage, she suggested to Sharrieff (who’s Muslim) that he convert to Mormonism. “He was, like, ‘Are you kidding me? They didn’t accept Black people into the Mormon Church until, like, 1970-something,’” she says. “That’s when I started questioning” her own religious affiliation, deciding she was not down with “a religion that did not accept my husband and my kids.”
And she decided to become Muslim.
When Sharrieff Jr. tells Jen his younger brother, Omar, has a girlfriend, Jen tells Omar he can contract herpes and “probably AIDS” from kissing a girl.
Sharrieff Sr. and the boys push back on that bit of totally incorrect information. And then Jen moves on.
“Do you know what sexting is?” Jen tells Omar. "If someone sexts you, block them and then come tell me.”
Heather Gay, who moved to Utah when she was 15, tells viewers, “The Mormon culture believes that we can be perfect. Perfection is obtainable.” And that’s why she opened Beauty Lab & Laser. The majority of her clients are either Mormon or have “Mormon background.”
“It’s just like putting your hand in a river of money, because obtaining perfection is a Mormon pastime,” Heather says.
A descendant of pioneers — “a purebred, pedigreed, pioneer Mormon” — she married into “Mormon royalty,” but she and her wealthy ex-husband divorced five years ago, leaving her as the single mom of three girls.
“In my personal experience, a good Mormon doesn’t drink, doesn’t smoke, doesn’t have sex, doesn’t swear,” Heather says. “I’ve tried not to drink, smoke, swear.”
Meredith moved to Utah from Chicago seven years ago.
“Being Jewish and from Chicago, I was apprehensive to make the move,” she says. “Utah has a certain underlying level of kindness, at least on the front, that you will get. You will not get that in Chicago.”
She lives full-time in Park City to run her jewelry business, and she quickly drops names of some of her famous clients — Charlize Theron, Scarlett Johansson, Rihanna. But her husband, Seth, is living primarily in Chicago to run his business.
“You can never have enough wealth, and you can never have enough sex,” Seth says. “I’m probably doing much better on the wealth side. I am totally overworked and undersexed.”
“That’s not even funny. That’s not nice,” Meredith says.
New York native Lisa Barlow says she is “Jewish by heritage, Mormon by choice.” She and her husband of 16 years, John, own a number of businesses, including multiple alcohol producers, such as VIDA Tequila.
“I’m sure that other Mormons care that I own a tequila company; what’s important is that I don’t,” she says.
And the Barlows are “not traditional parents. I don’t cook. I don’t make them breakfast in the morning. I think we’ve sat at the dinner table 10 times in our whole life.”
Another ‘Real’ Jen moment
Jen wants to book “hot male strippers” for Meredith’s birthday party, even though neither she nor Heather believe Meredith would actually want hot male strippers at her birthday party.
When we meet Whitney Rose, she’s renewing her wedding vows with her husband of 10 years, Justin, who’s 18 years older. It’s clear they spent a lot of money on the event, which, we’re told, differs greatly from their first wedding.
“When I married Justin, I was five months pregnant, and I was wearing my high school prom dress, standing in front of about 50 people who didn’t want us to be together,” Whitney says.
That’s not surprising, given that they were both Mormons (they’ve since been excommunicated) and they were each married to somebody else when their “hot office romance” began.
Whitney says that she came “from a long line of Mormonism,” claiming her “fourth great-grandfather” was a bodyguard for Joseph Smith and Brigham Young.
“It is a very big deal that I’m no longer Mormon,” Whitney says.
At the reception after Whitney’s elegant second wedding, she dances on a stripper pole.
And another ‘Real’ Jen moment
Jen wears stilettos in the winter weather. “I wore my snow shoes,” she says.
Jen is planning a party for Meredith’s birthday and she’s going all out, making it an Enormous Event and annoying the people who work for her.
And when she tells Meredith and Lisa it will be “just a small, girls’ gathering for cocktails,” they burst out laughing because they know she’s lying.
Jen’s home — the Shah Chalet — is transformed. “This is not a party, it’s an inauguration,” Heather says.
And Jen makes a late, attention-grabbing entrance.
“I would never make a grand entrance at a party I’m throwing for somebody else,” Lisa says. “It should be about the person you’re throwing the party for.”
And Jen booked Tongan dancers, who “really have nothing to do with Meredith. They have everything to do with me.”
“Yes, it’s my birthday,” Meredith says. “But the reality of it is — I knew this wasn’t a party for me.”
Heather tells Jen that she and Lisa were friends when they both went to Brigham Young University. Lisa tells Jen, “I don’t remember her” — and then goes on to suggest that Heather was a “fun” girl who flouted the school’s Honor Code
, which forbids alcohol and coffee, restricts contact between male and female students, and imposes a strict dress code and other rules.
“To say that she doesn’t remember me from college is just a weird thing to lie about,” Heather says. “It’s a dis, and she’s doing that because she’s a b---h.” She also says it’s “a complete lie” that she was a party girl at BYU, adding that she was a virgin when she got married.
And then later, at the party, Heather is convinced that Lisa blows her off. “I just want to hold her accountable for saying, ‘You’re like a sister to me,’” Heather says.
“It’s because she’s Mormon 2.0,” Jen says.
“Oh, whatever,” Heather says. “She’s Mormon bull---t.”
Whitney says Mary Cosby has “no filter,” and she’s “fabulous, and always dressed to the nines.”
“Everyone in Salt Lake City knows the story about Mary and her step-grandfather,” Whitney says.
Well, everybody in her social circle, maybe. But this story didn’t seem to break in Utah until the cast of “RHOSLC” was announced. Mary herself describes it as “kind of an arranged marriage. It was kind of in my grandma’s will for us to marry.”
And they’ve been married for 21 years. “We’re blessed to this day because of it,” Mary says.
Together, Mary and her husband, Bobby, run the Faith Temple Pentecostal Church in Salt Lake City; Mary is the “first lady” of the church, which they inherited from her grandmother.
Jen and Heather are not on board with Mary’s marriage story.
“I don’t give a s--t if it’s your biological grandpa, step-grandpa — s--t is weird,” Jen says.
“I love my grandpas, but I would not want to be married to them,” Heather says. “And I’m Mormon, and we have a lot of latitude for a lot of weird s--t.”
Mary and Jen used to be close, but then Jen came straight from visiting her aunt in a hospital — and when Jen hugged Mary, Mary had to struggle not to vomit because of the “hospital smell” on Jen.
Jen is highly offended by this, and by Mary’s lack of sympathy for the fact that her aunt had to have both her legs amputated.
“Take responsibility for your words and your actions and apologize to me,” Jen says. “But she can’t do it.”
Later, at the party, Mary denies any of this even happened, but a third woman confirms Jen’s version of events. And Mary’s lack of empathy is startling from a church leader.
“I don’t know what you want me to do about your aunt — her legs are gone,” Mary says in a later interview. “Why are you getting your legs cut off at 60? That means your diet’s bad.”
Seth makes a gesture for Meredith’s birthday — lots of roses — but he stays in Chicago and doesn’t come to Utah for the event.
And in the previews for upcoming episodes, Seth appears to be packing his bags.
Episode 2 debuts Wednesday on Bravo — 8 p.m. on Dish and DirecTV; 11 p.m. on Comcast.