Lisa Vanderpump questions push to unionize reality TV stars ‘plucked from obscurity’

Lisa Vanderpump stands in front of a wall of red roses, with a single rose on her chest.
Lisa Vanderpump pushes back on Bethenny Frankel’s fight to unionize reality stars.
(Gabe Ginsberg / Getty Images)

As reality TV grapples with a potential reckoning, Lisa Vanderpump has entered the chat.

On Thursday’s episode of The Times’ “The Envelope” podcast, senior TV writer Yvonne Villarreal caught up with the reality TV veteran and “Vanderpump Rules” executive producer Alex Baskin to discuss the unscripted show’s two Emmy nominations, the cheating scandal that broke the internet and whether reality TV stars should unionize.

“The Real Housewives of New York City” alum Bethenny Frankel suggested on social media last month that reality performers should go on strike alongside SAG-AFTRA and WGA members. Frankel spoke out against the “mistreatment” of unscripted talent, advocating that they earn a minimum of $5,000 per episode, receive a 10% raise each season and make an additional 10% of their talent fee any time their season re-airs, among other terms.

Vanderpump told The Times that efforts to unionize reality TV stars would “change the business” and not necessarily for the better.


Star Lisa Vanderpump and EP Alex Baskin discuss #Scandoval, the Bravo series’ first Emmy nominations, reality TV unions and more on “The Envelope” podcast.

Aug. 17, 2023

“One of the great things about reality shows is that they’ve always been able to be produced for less money than scripted shows,” Vanderpump said. “And I don’t really understand how you can have a union for people that are normally plucked out of obscurity.”

Vanderpump has been a cast member and executive producer on “Vanderpump Rules” since 2013, when it debuted as a spinoff of “The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills,” which she starred in from 2010 to 2019.

“You know, I’m very happy with what I’ve been paid over the years. I think the first season is always like an audition and then it’s what you make of it, you know?” Vanderpump explained.

Lisa Vanderpump and Alex Baskin join us to talk filming Scandoval in real time, VPR spinoffs and Emmy noms. Plus, Lisa’s take on residuals for reality stars.

Aug. 17, 2023

Vanderpump cited her relationship with Bravo, the network behind “Vanderpump Rules” and the “Real Housewives” franchise, as another reason why she isn’t interested in joining a union.

“I’ve been a producer now for 11 years. I’m thankful to the network, thankful for the opportunities and chances that they’ve given me. So, I don’t know, advocating for a reality star union. I’m not sure about that. I’m really not,” she said.

‘Vanderpump Rules’ TV personality Raquel Leviss opened up about Scandoval on a podcast, which included several revelations about the tense Season 10.

Aug. 16, 2023

Baskin agreed that low production costs, while unfavorable to stars, are the backbone of unscripted programming.


“I think it’s something that’s worth consideration and I do understand the premise that these shows are run many times over, but at the same time, there’s the economic reality of, as Lisa indicated, that unscripted programming exists in large part because it’s a better price point,” he said.

“I do think that there’s an impact on the other side of it. ... So I think it’s good that we’re having that dialogue, but I’m not sure that the immediate cessation of participation in the shows is gonna solve anything.”

In a video shared last month on her social media platforms, Frankel said reality stars are often overlooked, underpaid and mistreated.

“Reality stars are the stepchildren, the losers, the mules, the pack horses, the ones that the entertainment industry is going to rely on right now to carry the water and do the heavy lifting when real stars, real A-list Hollywood is on strike,” she said.

The stars of the hit Bravo series open up about #Scandoval, a ‘very angry’ reunion and whether Tom and Raquel are really broken up.

May 24, 2023

As the dual Hollywood strikes rage on, the push for better protections for reality TV stars remains part of an ongoing conversation about the fair treatment of workers across the entertainment industry. With the help of power attorneys Bryan Freedman and Mark Geragos and support from SAG-AFTRA, the movement is just getting started.

In the podcast episode, Vanderpump and Baskin also teased details about an upcoming “Vanderpump Rules” spinoff with former cast members Jax Taylor, Brittany Cartwright and Kristen Doute.

“It’s a totally different stage of their life. And I think that’s interesting too. The fact that suddenly you see dynamics have changed and you’ve seen this group struggle to grow up,” Vanderpump said. “I don’t think we would try to recreate another ‘Vanderpump Rules.’ I think that would be impossible. We started with an authentic group and that’s the way we’ll end up. But definitely, there’s some kind of progress, so to speak, in life, you know, a journey. And I think it’d be interesting to capture that too.”


Production is underway on Season 11 of “Vanderpump Rules.”