The Queen Bee
Much like our friends at the Audobon Society, who observe and chronicle different species of birds, we are housewife-watchers, devoted to the scholarly study of the ladies of Bravo in their natural habitats.
And in the last five years, since we first spotted them within a small gated enclave in Orange County, California, we have identified and documented the seven prototypical species, their habitats, evolutionary roles, range, nesting characteristics, and behaviors. The first in our series of Real Housewife species portraits is The Queen Bee.
The Queen Bee
The driving force of the cast, the Queen Bee’s role is to define the group’s core values and to set the unique tone of each habitat. Rarely the best looking or the most successful, the Queen Bee gains her authority by establishing what should be important to the group and rallying one or more supporters to validate this ideal. Just as the Queen Bee is able to appoint deputies to reinforce her philosophy, she also has a tendency to identify and ostracize another housewife as the scapegoat, if that rival housewife does not fall obediently in line with the core value that the Queen Bee has established.
- Jill Zarin is the Queen Bee in the Real Housewives of New York. Jill values social status. And she established that in order for a woman to gain worth she must marry a man who can raise her status. This is why she always refers to herself as Jill Zarin, rather than just Jill. And it also why the only women she can tolerate are LuAnn de Lesseps and Kelly Killoren Bensimon, two housewives who gained prestige through marriage.
- In the Real Housewives of Orange County, Vicki Gunvalson is the long time Queen Bee of Coto de Caza. Her core value is self-sufficiency. For four and a half years Vicki has reiterated that a woman must be self-sufficient and capable of surviving without her husband, both financially and socially. This is why “girls only” activities are so important to her and it is why she dismisses the worth of some cast members with the line, “You don’t even work!” For Vicki the only valid measuring stick for judging the other housewives is whether or not they are independent of their husbands and working outside of their homes.
- The undisputed Queen Bee of the Real Housewives of Atlanta is Nene Leakes, who establishes that the group’s core values are self-transformation and upward mobility. A larger than life example of the African-American opportunities for reinvention that Atlanta offers, Nene moves there as a single mother who struggled to support her son Bryson and marries a man who loves and provides for her. With a flick of Atlanta’s magic wand, Nene is cast on a television show, becomes a media darling with Anderson Cooper as her #1 fan, writes her memoirs and becomes a candidate to be Donald Trump’s Celebrity Apprentice. To the extent the other housewives support this Queen Bee’s message and join her on her cathartic journey, they’re golden. Take Kim Zolciak. When Kim was dreaming about transforming herself into a county singer and marrying Big Poppa, she and Nene were cuddling and sitting in each other’s laps. But just as it is with all Queen Bees, when one of the ladies denies the importance of her core value, Nene’s going to have a problem just as she did when Sherée denied that she was interested in upward mobility because she raised in an upper middle class family.
- Without question, Caroline Manzo is the ultimate Queen Bee in The Real Housewives of New Jersey. Above all else, Caroline values family unity. Taking care of the family is so important to Caroline that she puts her husband and children above herself and has a tendency to be wary of those people she is not related to. This has lead her to judge Teresa’s unchanging behavior, based solely upon how well she thinks Teresa is preserving and nurturing her family. When Teresa is seems to be taking care of business by indulging Juicy Joe’s legendary sex drive and dolling up the girls in frilly outfits, Teresa is “so funny.” But as soon as Caroline realizes that Teresa is actually bankrupting the family with her wild, compulsive spending, Caroline begins to see that Melissa may be the fun one.
- Like it or not, Camille Grammer set the tone in the first season of the Real Housewives of Beverly Hills. The wife of A-list television star Kelsy Grammar, this Queen Bee perfectly embodied the group’s core value: Hollywood fame. While of course Camille knew it would be better to have her own fame, she succeeded in establishing the value of the power a woman could attain, based solely on her access to Hollywood players. And thanks to their habitat, a company town that is dependent on the television and film industries, it was easy for Camille to use her Hollywood connections, including Alison Dubois, the real woman behind the television show Medium, to judge the other women and establish who the Alpha Girl really is.
Next up is The Enabler…
© The Smart Woman’s Field Guide to the Real Housewives was compiled by a panel of esteemed psychologists, social workers, society columnists, lawyers, publicists, fashion editors, party planners, comedians, respected gays, television critics, bloggers and successful wives.