Imagine an alternate reality TV history where “I made it nice” never became a thing. Dorinda Medley may be gearing up to film her sixth season on The Real Housewives of New York City, but she initially balked at joining the cast of the Bravo series before its first season, she reveals on this week’s episode of UnStyled.
As Bravo historians know, RHONY began, at least in concept, as Moms of New York almost a dozen years ago. At the time, newly-divorced Medley and her young daughter, Hannah, were re-acclimating to life on Manhattan’s affluent Upper East Side after living years abroad in London. Hannah attended prep school Sacred Heart with Avery Singer, daughter to one Ramona Singer. “We just became friends,” Medley tells Christene Barberich, Refinery29’s global editor-in-chief and cofounder. "She was stylish, she was quirky. She was exactly the way she is. She took me under her wing,” Medley says of Singer, one of the show’s original, and current, castmembers. (The former fashion designer, real estate agent and fitness instructor met another future housewife, Luann de Lesseps, on the dance floor at a bar mitzvah.)
“It’s like a fishbowl — everybody knows each other,” she says of the well-to-do community of Upper East Side families. “You go to the same places, you take your children to all the same activities. I can’t poo-poo it, because it made it very nice for my daughter. It was like she was living in the suburbs.”
Then Bravo producers started asking moms about joining the new series. “Jill Zarin was spearheading it,” she says of another original castmember. “They came to me. I was like ‘It sounds like the most ridiculous idea. They’re going to follow around women in New York?’ I just didn’t get it. Also, the timing wasn’t right. I wanted to just be all-mom at that point and focus on [Hannah]. It wasn’t the mode I was in.”
Medley got in the mode around 2014, when she joined the cast for season 7 with measured expectations. “When I went on the show, I said to everyone, ‘Okay, I'll do it, but I'm only going out for one year, and I'll probably only end up being a friend.’” Her thinking changed on day one of shooting. “The cameramen came in, they switched on the camera. I look at the camera I was like, I like the camera and I think the camera likes me. And off the races we went, six years on.”
And though filming is grueling — “five days a week, eight hours a day” for fourth months per season — Medley is not an unhappy reality star, she tells Barberich. “I enjoy it. I find it a very therapeutic process.” For Medley, the show documented her next chapter and her ongoing grieving process for her second husband Richard, who died in 2011.
As viewers know, Medley has been very frank and open on camera about mourning Richard. “I think whatever it takes you have to do it,” she says of grieving a loved one. “Drop out for a year if you want to, fall in love with someone else if you want to, just go mourn. Whatever it is to get you through it. My mother said to me perfectly one day, ‘Richard's not part of this earthly world anymore. That's over. He's done. He just wants you to be happy. If he wants anything, he wants you to be functioning and happy.’ I was like, ‘Oh, well, that's good.’”
RHONY fans also know that Medley did fall in love again — with Upper East Side dry cleaning mini-mogul John Mahdessian. In an UnStyled first, Mahdessian joined Medley later on during her chat with Barberich. Find out how they met, Medley’s friendship with Princess Diana, why she burst into tears at Andy Cohen’s baby shower and her bond with the other women on the show, listen to this week’s episode and subscribe to UnStyled via Apple Podcasts today