Bravo Academia: What I Should Have Asked Andy Cohen

I am, what sociologists of culture call, a cultural omnivore. I consume high and low art whether it be books, TV, movies, music, etc. Sometimes my DVR looks like a teenage girl (Pretty Little Liars, Teen Mom) and other times a middle-aged woman (Real Housewives, The Sisterhood). I love reading serious non-fiction as much as I love a good mystery series. And, let's face it, I love analyzing pop culture phenomenons. So for so many different reasons, Andy Cohen and all associated with him is right up my alley. His talk show, Watch What Happens Live (WWHL), obviously has a series pass. So last week when I went to a book event for him (The Andy Cohen Diaries: A Deep Look at a Shallow Year) I wondered what I would say to him.

Here's what went down, "I am probably going to teach a class on reality TV at Brown University and I will likely assign parts of your books [including his Most Talkative: Stories from the Frontlines of Pop Culture here]."

Andy: Really?!

Me: I am way cooler than Camille Paglia.

Andy: But I love Camille Paglia! But you might be cooler.

Wait, did I say "way cooler?!" I'm pretty sure that automatically nullifies the statement.

You were supposed to stand across the table from Andy while getting your book signed and to get a photo, but I said to him, "I'm postpartum and need to hide my body." He kindly let me stand like this. Andy Cohen clearly understands the importance of a good angle.


The JCC photo backdrop is poifect here. Evelyn Cohen would approve, I think.

While I won't be doing the reality TV course next academic year (instead doing classes on beauty pageants and sports), I do think it will happen soon. So, who knows people, I might be a guest on WWHL yet. If Camille Paglia can do it...

In any case, the event itself was only meh. It was the fastest event to ever sell out at the Newton JCC. The 300+ audience was full of fans who wanted to see and hear Andy for a bit, and then be sure they got their Instagram images and book swag. Instead, we sat through an awkward interview for 40 minutes that Andy had to cut off himself. Given that most people in the audience had at least one advanced degree, I expected better questions than, "Will you ever do a Real Housewives of Boston?!" [If you really know your Bravo stuff you know they won't be adding any other cities, which is why we got shows like "Ladies of London"] I cringed when a girl asked how she could "be" Andy Cohen, given she is a Communications major at Boston University, same as Andy. Boston, we could have done better!

Here are some of the more serious questions I would have asked Andy, especially based on The Andy Cohen Diaries:

1) You are very good friends with Anderson Cooper (aka "Coops"). As someone who is outspoken (pun intended) about being out, how do you feel about the fact he waited so long to publicly come out? Did you have conversations about this with him?

2) What does it mean that you encourage people to watch TV, but have also written two books. Do you think the two are mutually exclusive (like doing one activity takes away from the other)? Which do you actually prioritize? [I was pleasantly surprised in the Diaries that he writes about what he reads and has a sophisticated reading shelf.]

3) Do you see the written word, like Twitter and Instagram posts, as substitutable for reading books? I noticed you walked out with two phones, but no book? Do you care if people read the print or electronic versions of your books?

4) You write about, and spoke about, your ex-boyfriend in a very laudatory way. Care to spill the tea on why the relationship didn't work out?

I loved the moments in the book when he did go deeper, like talking about the rise of "docu-series," etc. I know Andy is smart and quick and I challenge him to say more beyond just creating 15 minutes of fame for a bunch of women with (his words) too much filler.

Hopefully at some point we can continue the conversation. In the meantime, I need to catch up on Bravo's new scripted show, Girlfriends' Guide to Divorce.


Bikini Babes: Olympic Gold and Pageant Bling

Last week some pageant bling helped me get into the holiday spirit. Take a look at these amazing/atrocious gowns from the 2012 Miss Universe Pageant and tell me they don't make you think of a) A Christmas Tree and b) A Mrs. Claus outfit gone wrong. Miss Venezuela 2012

Miss Mexico 2012

(Well, actually only if Mrs. Claus was a part-time baton twirler and a part-time stripper-- seriously I don't know HOW they can call this a dress!)

I tweeted about both of these dresses during the December 19th Pageant; in fact I tweeted so much that I got put into Twitter jail, a place I did not even know existed (for this rules-following girl who never ever got a detention this was traumatic). I got locked out right after I saw Miss Mexico's monstrosity, so I'll blame her fashion choices.

Such questionable fashion choices almost made up for the fact that again this year my favorite part of the pageant didn't appear live. But what could really make up for seeing a jaw-dropping ensemble, like that worn by Miss Angola 2012, on your TV screen?

Miss Angola 2012's National Costume

The next best thing is reading hilarious commentary about those national costumes, like that written by Tom & Lorenzo, which I encourage you to check out.

In addition to her questionable gown choice Miss Venezuela got a lot of disdain thrown her way after her unintelligible answer to her final question. But the most interesting question to me was for Miss Brazil and it came from Olympic Gold Medalist Kerry Walsh Jennings. Walsh Jennings asked Brazil what she thought about the fact that they both compete in bikinis and did she see this as sexual.  Brazil totally deflected the question, but I found Walsh Jennings observation to be spot-on-- and something I mentioned here back in March after the decision was made to allow female beach volleyball players to wear something other than bikinis. To be sure female beach volleyball players are criticized for their uniforms (some even went so far as to speculate that the skimpy attire is why women's beach volleyball was featured so much in NBC's primetime Olympics coverage), but not the extent of pageant contestants, likely because sports are so much more valued in society today. I find it interesting though that Walsh Jennings is so enormously popular right now (just last week she found out of the sex of her third child live on The Today Show; and her former gold medal partner appeared on Dancing with the Stars). Perhaps these sorts of female athletic stars are just a new incarnation of the once enormously popular pageant queens of old?

Just like Walsh Jennings and many other female athletes at the Olympics, an American woman ended up at the #1 slot. Miss USA, which was a nice surprise. I knew Miss USA Olivia Culpo would do well-- as she is so beautiful-- but right after her USA win I speculated that she might be too short to win. I guess adding some inches with her high bun helped out though as she took the crown away from other strong contenders like Australia and Philippines. Olivia Culpo will definitely represent the crown well, even if she is disdainful of her Miss America pageant sisters.

My thoughts on Miss Universe are a bit belated as I've been down for the count with viral bronchitis (no fun to have over your son's first Christmas!). During my convalescence I caught up on some movies and my absolute favorite was Queen of Versailles. It's a thought-provoking take on the 1%, real estate market, income inequality, and the American dream. I was pretty surprised that beauty pageants were a part of this story, though I guess I shouldn't have been given the final two items in that list.  Jackie Siegel, the Queen of Versailles, was Mrs. Florida in 1993 (when married to a different man) and in 2008 she took over as director of the Mrs. Florida Pageant. Her husband is a huge supporter of the Miss America Pageant and Miss America 2009 is shown, along with 2010 contestants, at the Siegel's Florida mansion.  Siegel presents the Miss America Organization with a huge check in the documentary.

I'm not sure this is the type of attention the Miss America Pageant wants, but in the context of the Bravo-fication of American pop culture (note that Andy Cohen hosted Miss Universe and many of the channel's reality show stars were judges at Miss Universe, along with others with reality show ties, including co-host Giuliana Rancic who is married to the first ever winner of Donald Trump [who owns Miss Universe]'s competitive reality show The Apprentice) it's not shocking. Now, Andy Cohen, just get Jackie Siegel her own reality show, stat. And a crown (real diamonds, natch) to go with it.