Vanderpump Rules, the Bravo reality show that follows employees at a restaurant group in Los Angeles, has been plunged into controversy after four of its stars were let go for past acts of racism (or at the very least, "racially insensitive" ones).
If you’ve never heard of the show, it’s a spin off of The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills which centres around drama that unfolds in restaurants and bars owned by former cast member Lisa Vanderpump.
The show has frequently been the subject of controversy, not least because its cast members are encouraged to drink and get into raucous fights. But now things have got much more serious.
So what happened?
As protests continue across the world following the murder of George Floyd, cast members have been fired for previous remarks and actions about race.
Stassi Schroeder and Kristen Doute, two original cast members, were fired after admitting that they called the police on black cast member Faith Stowers in 2018 for a crime she didn’t commit. The pair had been embroiled in an on-screen rivalry with Stowers after she reportedly had sex with cast member Jax Taylor while he was in a relationship with one of their friends, Brittany Cartwright.
After an audio recording of a now-deleted podcast where the pair were heard laughing about the incident resurfaced, Stowers described the what happened on a phone-in this week, saying:
There was this article on Daily Mail where there was an African American lady,”
It was a weird photo, so she looked very light-skinned and had these different, weird tattoos. They showcased her, and I guess this woman was robbing people. And they called the cops and said it was me. This is like, a true story. I heard this from actually Stassi during an interview.
Reporting Stowers for a crime she didn’t commit isn’t the first time that Schroeder has faced backlash. In an apology posted to Instagram this week, she acknowledged other “racially insensitive” remarks that have surfaced.
This included criticisms of Black Lives Matter and #OscarsSoWhite on her podcast several years ago.
Both Stassi and Kristen apologised for the incident relating to Stowers on Instagram, but it wasn’t enough to keep their position on the show, with Bravo announcing that they wouldn’t be returning.
Two other cast members, Max Boyens and Brett Caprioni, were also let go for using racial slurs on social media.
The topic was brought up at the Vanderpump Rules reunion, which was aired last week, and Vanderpump – who owns the restaurants which employ the pair and executive produces the reality show – defended her decision not to fire them.
Generally, people on social media think that it’s right that these cast members were given the boot. After all, imagine if Stowers had been arrested and encountered racist police officers?
But questions remain about how these two central cast members were allowed to be on the show for two seasons after this story first surfaced.
And also why Max and Brett, two new cast members, were allowed to join the show despite their history of making racist statements online.
Vanderpump in particular, who has a history of supporting LGBTQ+ rights and opposing animal cruelty, has been criticised online. There are currently no black cast members on the Bravo show and it has been called out in the past for storylines which were perceived as transphobic. And across Bravo's Real Housewives franchise, which catapulted Vanderpump to fame, fans have long complained about the lack of racial diversity.
Remarking on Vanderpump’s lack of public response to the controversy, Stowers said: “Had George Floyd been a dog, Lisa Vanderpump would protest.”
The reality star and producer has not publicly commented on the firings.