Scott D. Pierce: ‘The Real Housewives of SLC’ got a LOT of love at BravoCon

Fans fall all over themselves to fawn over Bravo-lebrities.

Las Vegas • If “The Real Housewives of Salt Lake City” have a warped sense of reality, there’s at least one good reason why. It would be hard not to think you’re beloved when there are hundreds — even thousands — of people telling you how much they love you.

And that’s exactly what happened last weekend at BravoCon at Caesars Forum in Las Vegas. Fans came out in force to fawn over dozens of “Bravo-lebrities” — cast members from the channel’s umpteen reality shows, including “RHOSLC.”

(Rich Polk) Angie Katsanevas, of "The Real Housewives of Salt Lake City," at BravoCon 2023.

“I’m feeling the love,” said Angie Katsanevas. “I’m loving the love.”

Who could blame her? BravoCon is the equivalent of a sci-fi convention. The people who attend are devotees of the genre. These are people who not just burst into applause, but whooped and hollered when “Housewives” executive producer/reunions host Andy Cohen confirmed that future reunion episodes of all the “Real Housewives” series will stream unedited on Peacock a day after the edited versions air on Bravo.

Yes, “RHOSLC” reunions on Peacock will be filled with unbleeped f-bombs in the future.

BravoCon attendees are not there to be critical. As is the case with events like San Diego’s Comic-Con or Salt Lake City’s FanX, the fans flock to panels to see their idols and toss softball questions — almost always after first expressing their love and admiration for the panelists. BravoCon goers are certainly not unique in that, as anyone who has been to a Sundance Film Festival post-film Q&A can attest.

Unlike sci-fi conventions, fans don’t show up dressed as Klingons or anime characters, but many of them do wear their own kind of costumes. They try to glam themselves up, with varying degrees of success. They wear self-made t-shirts emblazoned with images and/or words that mean nothing to anyone who doesn’t watch, say, “The Real Housewives of Dubai,” “Southern Hospitality” or “Below Deck Down Under.”

(Rich Polk) Whitney Rose of "The Real Housewives of Salt Lake City," at BravoCon 2023.

And there may not be a higher concentration of sequins anywhere on the planet. Not just on the Bravo-lebrities. And not just on the female fans.

I felt like I’d stepped into a parallel universe. I was there to observe, interview and write about members of the “RHOSLC” cast. I have no idea who the vast majority of the Bravo-lebrities are — the only other show I watch on Bravo is “Project Runway,” which had no presence at BravoCon.

And among the things I observed was the love that flowed to Lisa Barlow, Monica Garcia, Heather Gay, Angie Katsanevas, Meredith Marks and Whitney Rose. (To no one’s surprise, Mary Cosby did not attend.)

For new cast member Monica, it was her first time at BravoCon. “This is amazing!” she said. “I didn’t know exactly what to expect, but people have been so nice!”

Most members of the media who were there also fawned over the Bravo-lebrities. They, too, mostly asked easy, friendly questions when they weren’t hugging and kissing these people they hardly knew and asking for selfies. It was cringey. And acting like that would get you kicked out of the Television Critics Association.

(Rich Polk) Heather Gay of "The Real Housewives of Salt Lake City," at BravoCon 2023.

I’m not criticizing the fans for loving the Housewives, or the Housewives for being loved. It’s just that seeing BravoCon in person helped me better understand the relationship between fans and Housewives.

Heather, who’s had a good deal of experience dealing with the public for both the show and on book tours for her autobiography “Bad Mormon,” clearly enjoyed all the positive feedback, but she was also able to put it in perspective.

“Ultimately, when you come to an event like this and you see all of the people gathered,” she said, “and there’s so much love and there’s so much investment and there’s so much energy, I feel proud to be a part of this community. I feel lucky. And I feel grateful. That’s something you don’t feel a lot when you’re filming, or when it’s airing and you’re getting an onslaught of a lot of negativity.”

(Nicole Weingart | Bravo) Lisa Vanderpump, Tom Sandoval and Tom Schwartz of "Vanderpump Rules," at BravoCon 2023.

They’re booing him and not her?

Maybe the biggest headline to come out of BravoCon was the booing. Tom Sandoval could barely speak during a “Vanderpump Rules” panel because the attendees just hate him so much.

I don’t watch that show, but even I’m aware of “Scandoval,” which involved three members of the cast. Tom became a reality TV pariah when he cheated on his longtime girlfriend, Ariana Madix, with her friend and their fellow cast member, Raquel Leviss.

Tom was clearly the man those in attendance at BravoCon love to hate. The boos were deafening.

What struck me as a little bit odd was that the hate washed over him didn’t extend to other Bravo-lebrities. Tom isn’t the only cast member on Bravo’s umpteen reality shows to cheat on a significant other — far from it. I’m not defending his actions, but, c’mon, he didn’t kill anybody.

“Real Housewives of Salt Lake City’s” own Whitney Rose got a warm reception from BravoCon goers. She’s been open about the fact that she cheated on her first husband with Justin, her second husband, while he was her boss. Justin was cheating on his first wife — with whom he shares three sons — and the affair broke up both marriages.

You could certainly argue that a breakup that involves cheating and children is worse than one that doesn’t involve children, but Whitney seemingly faced no judgment from the fans, while Tom was pilloried.

This isn’t meant as criticism of Whitney. Yes, it does underline the hypocrisy of BravoCon fans, but let’s not make too much of that, either.

What’s clear is that what happens on TV is much more important to fans than what happens in real life. If it isn’t on an episode of “Vanderpump Rules,” “The Real Housewives of Salt Lake City” or one of Bravo’s other reality shows, it’s like it never happened.

If it is on one of those shows, it takes on importance far more than it deserves.

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