Why in the world did Jen Shah agree to join the cast of “The Real Housewives of Salt Lake City”?
I mean, if you’re cheating and stealing from thousands of older people, wouldn’t it make sense to keep a low profile? Going on the show and then making yourself the center of attention with an abundance of fussing and feuding, screaming and yelling, drinking and diva-ing makes zero sense.
It’s not like Shah got herself arrested and eventually pleaded guilty to her crimes because she was on “RHOSLC.” According to the charges, the investigation into the fraud had been going on for years before Bravo’s cameras came to Salt Lake City.
But if she had never been on the show, Shah’s guilty plea would have barely been a blip in the news cycle. Yes, there would have been some stories. Jen Shah is, after all, the wife of University of Utah assistant football coach Sharrieff Shah, who is rather prominent in the community. The local press would have reported on the charges against her and her guilty plea.
Maybe Jen just wanted the attention?
It’s very confusing to those of us who cannot imagine opening up our lives to television viewers and subjecting ourselves to all the slings and arrows that are thrown at “Real Housewives” cast members. Not because we have anything to hide — most of us aren’t committing fraud — but because, in the age of social media, who needs people across the country commenting on and criticizing us?
The one big bonus to being a Real Housewife is that it’s good for business. It’s free advertising for Lisa Barlow’s Vida Tequila, Heather Gay’s Beauty Lab + Laser, Meredith Marks’ jewelry business and Whitney Rose’s Wild Rose Beauty.
But there was a reason Shah was always vague about her business dealings. Even she apparently couldn’t bring herself to go on TV and encourage viewers to let her rip them off.
I’m not trying to make light of the situation. I feel badly for all the people who lost money. And I feel badly for Shah’s family.
We saw Jen tell Sharrieff repeatedly that she was an innocent woman. He was lied to, just like the rest of us.
There are times when I struggle to describe what, exactly, “The Real Housewives of Salt Lake City” is. It’s not altogether a reality show, because parts of it are not real. Cast members are not a group of friends. Some were friends before filming began, and some barely knew each other. The gatherings they share are, for the most part, manufactured for the show. And, given the battles and brawls that have broken out among them, it’s crystal clear that some of these women would never agree to be in the same room together were they not contractually obligated to do so.
But it’s also clear that the feelings and emotions they express are, for the most part, genuine. Some of it certainly appears to be heightened for the cameras, but that doesn’t make those feelings false.
Looking back at the season 2 reunion episodes, Jen tried to cast herself as a heroic figure battling the unfair forces lined up against her. She said she would “fight for every person out there that can’t fight for themselves because they don’t have the resources or the means. So they don’t fight. I will fight because, number one, I’m innocent. And, number two, I’m going to [expletive] represent every other person out there that can’t fight.”
One wonders if her onscreen behavior will affect how long a sentence the judge gives her in November.
Season 2 of “RHOSLC” is full of Jen Shah’s lies. But that doesn’t mean the show was untruthful — it was truthfully portraying that Jen was not telling the truth.
Production on season 3 was largely completed before her guilty plea. It will be interesting to see how the episodes are edited.
It was one thing to hear Jen declare, “The only thing I’m guilty of is being Shah-mazing,” when there was still at least a glimmer of doubt that she was part of a scheme to defraud older, lower-income people.
Now that she’s admitted to her crimes, it’s going to be tough to see her continue to profess her innocence in footage shot before she changed her plea.
Editor’s note • This story is available to Salt Lake Tribune subscribers only. Thank you for supporting local journalism.