- Real Housewives of Beverly Hills -Dana Wilkey Reveals How "Friend Of" Housewives Are Really Treated
Dana Wilkey is one of the first "friends ofs" within the Housewife franchise. She first made her appearance on Real Housewives of Beverly Hills in Season 1 (we'll get to that) but really came into her own on Season 2, when she was officially featured as an "unofficial Housewife," as the Hollywood Reporter called her in 2011.
Now, Dana has a podcast called Dishing Drama with Dana Wilkey, where she takes deep dives into the latest gossip, feuds, and scandalous stories. She has a Patreon, too, for more exclusive gossip content, and a new YouTube channel. She says her recent drunk commentary on the Salt Lake City Season 2 premiere is a must-watch.
But before Dana was sharing the gossip, she was the gossip.
I asked Dana how she got on the Real Housewives of Beverly Hills, how producers handled her "friend of" role, and how the role has evolved since she pioneered it. Spoiler: Dana Wilkey walked so Sutton Stracke could run.
Grab your $25,000 sunglasses and enjoy.
(This interview has been edited for length and clarity.)
Melissa Lacks for The Dipp: So how did you get on RHOBH?
Dana Wilkey: I don’t know if many people know this, but I was first featured back during Season 1 as a "guest of." If you look closely, I was Taylor [Armstrong’s] event planner at Kennedy’s $60,000 Mad Hatter-themed birthday. I’m that brunette pregnant lady that now is probably unrecognizable. Back then, Housewives had different lingo and called me "guest of."
Did you feel like this was your audition, per se?
Absolutely not. I really was on camera because I was an event planner and friends with Taylor – she'd asked me to plan the elaborate birthday party. It was beneficial to her to show the caliber of the party, and beneficial to me, since it gave me free exposure and free PR on the show.
Was that your "in" into the franchise?
Basically, yes. I was already in the celebrity event planning business, going to a lot of events and making plenty of connections. I was good friends with Taylor and did hear through the grapevine that the producers were looking for people to shoot…. but on those shows the cast doesn’t really like to recommend people, because, in their eyes, they were worried they could lose their spot.
I didn’t take it too seriously, and then I moved back to Miami to be with my daughter and ex-finance. I then got a call from my manager pushing me to do it and I said, "Sure, what the hell." I filled out the application, sent the pictures, etc. I then got a call and was asked to come back to jump in for some testing and the rest is history.
What's interesting is that when I submitted my application and tape, the producers did not remember me as Kennedy's birthday event planner from Season 1. When that was revealed, I feel that helped and was a good in for me.
Did the show discuss with you what a "friend of" role was? What were your thoughts when you were given this title?
I had no idea I was submitting for a "friend of"… they just thrusted me into the fold and I had no idea what I was doing. At first, the producers threw me some bones, because they knew it was my first time in this world and they wanted me to succeed.
For example, the $25,000 sunglasses line? Producers told me to say that, because they knew me telling everyone the cost of my sunglasses would cause some stir. They also – which didn’t make it to air – had me start quote unquote arguments with Lisa Vanderpump, which really made no sense, since that was the first time I met her. But the producers knew those type of things could make it to air and would help me out in the end.
What I also found out was they were testing another candidate, who turned out to be Brandi [Glanville]. After we were brought in, we found out the goal of the producers was to give us these "friend of" type roles with the opportunity to upgrade anytime. This was the first time Housewives was doing this, so it was pretty iconic and in a way, pinned the two of us against each other.
How did you find out and how did you feel when Brandi received the full-time role the next season?
The producers let me know and I wasn’t upset – I knew Brandi was more controversial and was all about the drama and had a storyline that fit. That said, soon after I found out that I wasn't on the show anymore, my fiancé had an affair and left me. It was devastating personal news, but if you think about it, it would have been Housewives’ gold.
I did also feel like my character/story did not have closure, and after all that controversy in my life, I did reach out to the producers to come on again as a "guest star" to wrap up my story, which is the scene you remember of me talking to Taylor crying, smoking with the candle. So classic! The producers loved it… nothing to lose for them and it really added another nugget within that episode in that season.
Does that mean that "guest stars" only need to sign a release and don't get paid?
Yes exactly, full-time and "friend of" sign contracts and get paid, and guest stars sign a release.
Were you treated differently by producers or executives and even by the full-time cast after you got the "friend of" title?
Definitely not, I really felt like I was treated equally because we were told they could upgrade us anytime… and everyone knew this, so treatment was the same across the board.
So it seems like you and Brandi really paved the way for a "friend of" to move to full-time.
I always thought the ladies who start out as "friends of" on their cast are extremely intelligent individuals outside of the reality landscape and need that prep season prior. But once they get their footing and see how it all works, they can become genius, iconic next-season Housewives. Sutton [Stracke] is the perfect example…she learned the ropes, played the game, and is coming out as an amazing full-time Housewife and fan favorite.
Why do you feel "friends ofs’"make classic episodes?
It goes along with being extremely intelligent, but maybe struggling within the reality landscape. So when in doubt, throw in a one-liner to make your mark.