In April 2018, Bravo’s “Vanderpump Rules” star Stassi Schroeder went on a podcast and told a story about how she and her co-star, Kristen Doute, called the police when they thought a photo of an alleged robber in a Daily Mail article looked just like their former cast member, Faith Stowers.
The woman in the Daily Mail photo was not, in fact, Stowers – the only thing they had in common is they were both black. Still, at the time, Doute also tweeted her suspicions with a link to another article from the Los Angeles NBC station. “I didn’t wanna go there but I’m going there,” she wrote.
While this did not strike Schroeder or Doute as particularly problematic two years ago, they learned their lesson Tuesday when Bravo fired them both a week after Stowers shared this anecdote in an Instagram Live chat. In addition, the network confirmed “Vanderpump” cast members Max Boyens and Brett Caprioni, who both apologized in January for past racist tweets, will not be returning to the show, which concludes its eighth season next week.
Racist behavior from reality TV stars has gone on for years, and viewers have frequently railed against it online. Executives and producers typically do nothing: After all, they cast outrageous personalities who say outrageous things, which translates to attention and ratings. Sometimes, these controversies lead to a tearful apology, or a denial, or an attempt have a teachable moment. But given the current reckoning over racism and police brutality, with protests across the world to support the Black Lives Matter movement, networks are realizing they can no longer just hope the social media backlash blows over. There must be consequences.
In addition to Bravo, Lifetime last week pulled the plug on dance teacher Abby Lee Miller’s “Dance Moms” spinoff after students’ parents detailed Miller’s past alleged racist comments. MTV fired “The Challenge” star Dee Nguyen over “offensive” social media posts about the Black Lives Matter movement. In some cases, stars themselves reached their breaking point: Rachel Lindsay, the only black lead in “Bachelor” franchise history and co-host of the show’s official podcast, said Tuesday she will cut ties with the series if producers don’t make serious changes to address the long-running lack of diversity and racist behavior from contestants.
As for “Vanderpump Rules,” an extremely popular Bravo series that follows the drama among staff at former “Real Housewives” star Lisa Vanderpump’s Los Angeles restaurants, fans were stunned that the network took action. Schroeder, the show’s biggest breakout star with a best-selling book and hit podcast, has made plenty of offensive statements in the past: calling an outfit “Nazi chic”; sighing that she was over “everyone making everything about race” in regards to the #OscarsSoWhite campaign; saying that women who revealed stories of sexual harassment wanted to be part of the “hashtag Me Too trend.” After the latter, multiple sponsors severed partnerships with her podcast. Now, Schroeder has been dropped by her talent agency and PR firm, and lost her gig as a columnist at Glamour. Doute, who just released a book, is no longer represented by her literary agency.
Schroeder and Doute’s call to the police was only re-shared recently because, as Stower explained during a chat on Instagram with MTV star Candice Rice, she started getting messages from people who noticed “Vanderpump Rules” cast members were posting about Black Lives Matter. “I know some of them, and I know they definitely don’t care about black people like that,” Stowers said.
Stowers said she experienced repeated bullying from the “Vanderpump” cast, including her hair being called “nappy,” after she was involved in an incident with their friend. (Though she didn’t elaborate, Season 6 focused on Stowers and Jax Taylor, with whom she had an affair while Taylor was engaged to another cast member. Stowers pointed out it was strange that they were upset with her and not Taylor, a known serial cheater.) Stowers first heard Schroeder and Doute reported her to the police when Schroeder appeared on a now-deleted episode of the podcast “B—- Bible” and told the story about the photo in the news article.
“They thought it was me because it was a black woman with a weave,” Stowers said.
When Stowers’s comments blew up online, Schroeder and Doute released lengthy apologies on Instagram. Schroeder: “What I did to Faith was wrong. I apologize and I do not expect forgiveness.” Doute: “Although my actions were not racially driven, I am now completely aware of how my privilege blinded me from the reality of law enforcement’s treatment of the black community, and how dangerous my actions would have been to her.” No word yet from Taylor, who tweeted in 2017 that Stowers was “wanted by the police for grand theft auto … someone’s going to jail.”
Miller, the controversial dance instructor on “Dance Moms,” was also called out for hypocrisy after she posted a black square for #BlackoutTuesday, a music industry campaign to support black artists. Adriana Smith, whose 7-year-old daughter Kamryn appeared on Season 8, responded with a statement that started with the hashtag “#DontActLikeYouCare.” “People need to be held accountable not just for the injustices but also for being a closet racist,” she wrote. She said that Miller once compared her growing up in “the country club” to Adriana growing up “in the hood,” and that Kamryn overheard someone say “they need a sprinkle of color.”
In an Instagram statement, Miller apologized: “I realize that racism can come not just from hate, but also from ignorance. No matter the cause, it is harmful, and it is my fault.” Last Friday, Entertainment Weekly reported that Miller will no longer appear on “Dance Moms” if it’s renewed for another season, and a planned spinoff (“Abby’s Virtual Dance Off”) is canceled.
Tuesday night, Bravo aired the second part of the Season 8 “Vanderpump Rules” reunion; it did not address the firing of four cast members, nor did host Andy Cohen bring it up on “Watch What Happens Live.” A publicist did not return a request from comment when asked if “Vanderpump” has been renewed for a ninth season.