Recently, Teresa Giudice admitted to staging her prison release photo to make some money. Appearing on the Hollywood Raw podcast, she revealed that she struck a deal with the paparazzi to get the famed shot of her outside the jail the day she was released.
“The only time I made a deal with paparazzi was when I got out of jail,” she said. “They wanted the first photo and I did it. I was like, ‘If they’re going to get it anyway, I might as well make money off of it.'”
She explained that she managed to strike a deal with PEOPLE while she was imprisoned in 2015 and negotiated selling the photos of her release to the outlet. Though she remained tight-lipped about how much she received for the photos and how the deal was even negotiated in the first place, whether independently or through her lawyer, the fact that she made this revelation is…interesting, to say the least.
It’s no secret that Real Housewives are hustlers. From Lisa Barlow’s inability to forego the mention of her brand of tequila to the blowup of Bethenny’s Skinny Girl brand, which started taking off while she was filming Real Housewives of New York, to the constant plugging of everything from podcasts to passion projects to the Homeless Not Toothless initiative, the women know a thing or two about product placement.
But this particular admission is a lot more harmful than profiting off of some of the things we’ve seen housewives earn money from in the past because of the complicated nuances that exist when we’re dealing with the justice system.
I’m mindful of the fact that Teresa was essentially heading in the direction of being a single mom at this point, with her now ex-husband Joe set to begin his prison sentence shortly after she was freed. So though part of me can totally understand the push for her to turn a profit, the other part of me wonders how many of the women serving similar sentences would also have a chance at monetizing any aspect of their prison experience?
The other thing that makes this admission in particularly poor taste is the nature of her crimes. Teresa and Joe were accused of being deceitful about their incomes when they applied for loans prior to joining the cast, and inflating their income. Then they were accused of hiding their additional assets in a bankruptcy filing. They were ultimately convicted of mail, wire and bankruptcy fraud in 2014 and then went on to withhold information in court, which really pissed off judge Esther Salas, who presided over the case.
I’m not sure what difference it would make if her charges were any different, but it doesn’t sit well with me that this is a woman who, by all measures, repeatedly failed to do the honourable thing in her pursuit of more money and the lifestyle we see her live out on the show.
The contradiction we see with Real Housewives is that producers really encourage them to play up the glitz, glamour and drama of their life, all of which Teresa certainly had. Her custom-built, gaudy, banquet-hall-looking mansion certainly worked well for her as it pertained to being on the show. But on the other hand, there are certain scenarios where that lavishness works against them and makes it hard to believe that they truly are down on their luck – let alone when you have a history of hiding your wealth.
We saw it happen with Jen Shah, who threw extravagant parties and fed into the need for drama by being so confrontational, that even in moments we saw her soften, particularly around her trial, it was hard to believe whether it was the real her or whether it was all an act.
It’s yet another layer of the ethical dilemma reality TV fans face in consuming shows like these. Because besides the time we invest into watching the hour-long episodes each week for a show with multiple installments, we also become emotionally invested in the women and their stories, often following them on social media. So when moments present themselves where we find ourselves asking whether, after all that, we really know the real them, it’s a bit polarizing.
Teresa has always been in dire need of a PR person to advise her on her comings and goings. A few months ago, she and her daughters were in hot water over a partnership with fast-fashion brand SHEIN. Between that and this most recent admission, she’s highlighting why some more media training and guidance when it comes to what she says, who she partners with and what she reveals in interviews, is much needed.
There are people rotting in jail for crimes they didn’t commit. There are women who are away from their children and will leave jail unable to vote, in some cases, or find gainful employment because of their criminal record. But Teresa, on the other hand, got to leave jail after a shortened sentence, get a hefty paycheque off of a photo, and she went on to make millions more in brand partnerships, and got her daughters involved so that they, too, can earn money, and have it all unfold in front of our eyes as she stars in a reality show.
So despite people being able to understand the temptation to cash in on her release photo, her revealing that just highlights, even more so, that even with a criminal record, there are certain privileges she, as a white celebrity, has that others will never.