Real Housewives of Potomac star Ashley Darby is addressing concerns she may be colourist. I’ve written before about the allegations (and evidence) of racism within the Bravo network, but this is the first time I’m writing about colourism. And to be clear, there is a difference.
“So, I really hate that I have to say anything about this and that I have to address this, but it seems to have just gotten like way out of control,” she said in a video she posted to her Instagram Stories Monday.
“First and foremost, I am not a colorist. I know everyone wants to deem me that. They want to make all these accusations about me because of my own skin tone, but I don’t claim that because that’s not me.”
She went on to describe having issues with light-skinned cast members in the past, saying, “I always start at a hundred with people until you give me a reason to take it down."
But fans aren’t satisfied and they’re pointing to a wider issue within the show, with audience members also calling out some of the other cast members over similar concerns of colourism.
Racism is a form of prejudice or discrimination directed against people who belong to a certain race. But colourism, on the other hand, is a form of prejudice or discrimination directed at people with darker skin tones.
In my last piece about racism within Bravo, I touched on how Black cast members were treated differently than their white counterparts, and not just within Real Housewives, but across the various shows. But with colourism in the mix, this means that even in an all-Black cast, like that of Potomac, the divide is between the lighter-skinned women and the darker-skinned women. And rather than outrage being directed towards the production team, it’s being cast onto the women themselves.
In the show’s current season, there are three castmates other than Ashley who are visibly lighter than the other women on the show – Robyn Dixon, Gizelle Bryant and Mia Thornton. Karen Huger is light- skinned as well but she’s not nearly as involved in this scandal as the rest of the women are. While Ashley is biracial, Mia, Robyn and Gizelle are fully Black. And for Robyn and Gizelle, their ethnicity is something frequently challenged by viewers because of their green eyes, which have earned them the name the “Green Eyed Bandits”. But it’s not just their eye colour that have given them the name, it’s because they often display bandit-like behaviour – especially to the show’s darker-skinned women, Wendy Osefo and Candiace Dillard.
Ashley’s video was in response to audience outrage over the latest episode of the show, which aired Sunday night and captured a dispute between her and Candiace. Essentially, Ashley suggested Candiace’s husband was trying to make a pass at her and other women on the show. In all honesty, Ashley is only making those claims because Candiace was the most vocal about the gross, predatory behaviour of Ashley’s husband Michael in past seasons, which included the alleged sexual assault of a male producer, and I don’t think that alone makes her colourist.
Ashley has had issues with just about everyone, including the Green Eyed Bandits, that share a similar skin tone as her. She has had to call them out for their behaviour on multiple occasions. All of this seems to be smoke and mirrors to distract us from the real colourism at play, which is actually happening at the hands of production.
In a previous season, another dark-skinned castmate, Monique Samuels, was ousted from the show after getting into a physical altercation with Candiace. In all the seasons I’ve watched, this is probably the most intense physical altercation I’ve ever seen, with Monique being left with a bloody lip as a result. But it’s not to say there weren’t other fights.
During the first season of Real Housewives of New Jersey, the 18-year-old daughter of Jacqueline Laurita, Ashley Holmes, pulled Danielle Staub’s hair, yanking her extensions out. She was found guilty of simple assault and ordered to pay a measly $189. On top of these two instances, there have been several others. But Ashley Holmes never got kicked off the show, despite being found guilty in a court of law. In fact, I don’t think anyone other than Monique Samuels has been fired for fighting.
While there are rumblings on social media about the real issue, which is Robyn’s overly-aggressive behaviour often being excused or brushed over, it’s not getting nearly enough attention as it needs to. It’s no wonder one social media user chronicled her pattern of problematic behaviour in this compilation, with other users publishing clips that include her lying about having to be physically restrained during a dispute with Wendy and a slew of other instances where she displayed intimidating and aggressive tendencies.
Sure, reality TV is fertile ground for everything from explosive arguments to audience input and harassment on social media. But seeing the women take all of the heat for the production team’s carefully constructed circumstances that make for good TV is irritating and absolves the network of some of the blame, and it pushes the narrative that Black women are angry, messy and violent. Plus, it hinders the women’s ability to actually get along and unite because they’re having to defend themselves to audience members who have mistakenly blamed them for issues that would be better off directed at production.
I’m not holding my breath in hopes that Andy Cohen will hold Robyn accountable at the reunion, but if he and his team have their finger on the pulse of some of the chatter happening online, she’ll have to answer for her behaviour. And quite frankly, he’ll have to answer for his.