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“It’s A Mix Of Authenticity And Complete Fabrication” Emotional Camping: The Cross-platform Labor Of The Real Housewives

Evie Psarras

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Despite popular interest in reality television, social media, and self-branding, much scholarship focuses on a single platform and places the burden of self-branding on the individual alone. Drawing on 6 years of research into the Real Housewives (RH) franchise and interviews with “Housewives,” I focus on the women’s performances of identity and self-branding across platforms. This article demonstrates that the women of RH become experts at working the system that exploits them via a form of labor I conceptualize as “emotional camping.” Successfully branded “Housewives” tend to be (1) dedicated to Bravo, (2) inclined to present as walking GIFs on Instagram, and (3) seemingly authentic. I argue this self-branding strategy affords these women a semblance of privacy in their highly public careers. These findings are a critique of and feminist mediation into the legitimate labor reality stars do for networks and themselves across platforms.