BravoCon Draws Reality Show Stars And Superfans

Nov 17, 2019
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MICHEL MARTIN, HOST:

And finally today, sometimes, don't you just want to get together with people who like the same trashy TV you do? Sure you do. The television networks know this, and now they've gone into Comic-Con's territory. Last weekend, the Hallmark Channel hosted ChristmasCon in New Jersey for fans of its holiday movies. And this weekend, it was BravoCon in New York City. Fans had a chance to mix with reality stars from shows like "Top Chef" and "The Real Housewives" series. Reporter Jeff Lunden was there, and he sent us this.

JEFF LUNDEN: Bravo's stock in trade is unscripted reality shows, most particularly "The Real Housewives" franchise. And thousands of fans, called Bravoholics (ph), descended on the West Side of Manhattan to see some of the stars of those shows, called Bravolebreties (ph), in person.

(CHEERING)

LUNDEN: That's the crowd going crazy at the end of one of the panels. I wasn't allowed to record it, but I did get to speak with some of the fans. Michelle Sweet came from Chicago with several friends who love "The Real Housewives."

MICHELLE SWEET: It's total escapism in the best way you can imagine. After a busy day at work, all I want to do is listen to the real housewives banter and bicker. It's white noise, and it's heaven.

LUNDEN: Jonathan Harbet came from Pittsburgh.

JONATHAN HARBET: There's three things in life I love to talk about. One is myself, two is game shows, and three is the housewives. So, of course, when they announced BravoCon, I had to get a ticket. And I had to be here.

LUNDEN: A one-day general admission pass is $125, while a super VIP pass for all three days comes in at 1,500. And all the tickets - 10,000 of them - sold out within hours. The event is the brainchild of Bravo's vice president of marketing and social media, Maria Laino Deluca. She says after experimenting with some smaller interactive customer events, they went for total immersion.

MARIA LAINO DELUCA: We have everything, including panels, interactive video and photo experiences as well as a "Real Housewives" museum, "Southern Charm" brunches, Bravopalooza brunches, "Top Chef" dinners featuring our former cheftestants (ph) and winners.

LUNDEN: Yep. One of those cheftestants who won Season 14 of "Top Chef," Brooke Williamson, prepared a gourmet meal for some lucky Bravoholics. And she made sure to meet them.

BROOKE WILLIAMSON: I had the opportunity to really talk to every single person who came to dinner last night, which is rare.

LUNDEN: Connection was really what the weekend was about, says real housewife of New Jersey Teresa Giudice.

TERESA GIUDICE: It's been amazing. They always think they know us but are now seeing us in person. And, you know, they want to get to know us even better, take photos with us, you know, talk to us. They love that.

LUNDEN: Kinsey Shaw got to hang with another Bravolebrity.

KINSEY SHAW: We did the "Southern Charm" brunch this morning, and we got to sit with Patricia in a caftan and just sit and talk and eat chicken and waffles.

ANDY COHEN: They feel like we're friends...

LUNDEN: If there's one uber Bravolebrity, it's Andy Cohen. He's executive producer of "The Real Housewives" programs and host of "Watch What Happens Live."

COHEN: ...But we kind of are because they know everything. We're all living our lives in front of the camera. We're transparent with the viewers about what we're going through and who we are. And we're all on the same ride.

LUNDEN: And super fan Jonathan Harbet says his experience at BravoCon - taking selfies with the stars, eating Brooke Williamson's short ribs and making new friends - was even better than he expected.

HARBET: Everyone here has been great - like, absolutely no drama. I mean, it's Bravo. It's such a shameless, self-promoting convention about absolutely nothing, and we're having an absolute great time.

LUNDEN: For NPR News, I'm Jeff Lunden in New York.

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