Bravo’s Real Housewives franchise nets big ratings as well as big bucks for its stars, but that doesn’t mean the Real Housewives themselves are good at managing their money. Though some stars from the franchise pull in more than $1 million per season — with The Real Housewives of Atlanta stars NeNe Leakes reportedly raking in more than any other housewife with $2.75 million per season — a lot of them find themselves in dire straits. Several of the housewives have filed for bankruptcy, while others have been taken to court (and in the case of Teresa Giudice, hauled off to prison) over their money matters.
The Real Housewives of New York star Bethenny Frankel was already a mogul when she became a TV star. She hinted that all that glittered within the Bravolebrity realm wasn’t gold in an August 2018 interview, telling Money magazine of her less-savvy peers, « They can’t afford the lives they’re living. And if the music stops, they’re going to get in some trouble. » For some of the housewives, the music stopped long ago, but they’re still dancing their way deeper into debt. Here are some Real Housewives who lost their fortunes. Thankfully, a few of them were able to get theirs back.
Lynne Curtin’s financial trouble played out on the show
In 2013, court documents revealed that former The Real Housewives of Orange County star Lynne Curtin only had $100 to her name. TMZ reported that in filings from Curtin’s divorce from now-ex-husband Frank, she claimed to have been spending just $515 a month. Her spending breakdown came to an alleged $150 on dining out (a bad idea in general if you’re broke), $115 for telephone and Internet, $50 on laundry, $100 on clothes, and $100 on entertainment. She claimed to make just $250 a month with her own jewelry business — or $3,000 a year — which was a good $8,000 below the poverty line for individuals in the United States at the time.
Curtin, who appeared on the fourth and fifth seasons of the Bravo hit, also reportedly owed a staggering $30,000 in back taxes from 2009, which she reportedly claimed were her estranged husband’s problem. She also claimed to have had to take out a loan just to pay her attorney. Curtin’s financial troubles were no secret to RHOC viewers. In 2010, her daughters were served with an eviction notice when she wasn’t home, which Curtin described on the show. It was, in large part, to blame for her and Frank’s divorce, as Curtin had accused Frank of hiding the truth about their finances from her.
Alexis Bellino defaulted on a mortgage
RHOC star Alexis Bellino and husband Jim received a foreclosure notice for their Newport Beach, Calif., mansion in 2010, Radar Online reported. The Bellinos’ home was a money pit for the couple, as they spent nearly $6 million in renovations on the property since purchasing it in 2007. The site claimed that the pair defaulted on their $4.5 million home loan. When they tried selling the mansion, they reduced the price from $4.99 million to $3.69 million, but, with interest and penalties, the Bellinos still owed more than $4.67 million on the home. The house was reportedly listed for a short sale before the pair modified their home loan.
The Orange County Register reported that Jim’s company « that holds title to his house » filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in December 2010. He said in a statement at the time, « To set the record straight, we have not filed bankruptcy. I have been buying and selling residential and commercial properties for more than two decades, » adding, « The bank’s actions, however, forced the entity that holds the title to the home to file Chapter 11 re-organization bankruptcy protection for the purpose of protecting this asset while we continue to work toward resolution. »
Kim Richards’ money is the least of her problems
Before Kim Richards was cast on The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills, she was a child star. Unfortunately, like many former child starlets since, she fell into a lot of darkness. She reportedly has a record that includes substance abuse and a rap sheet that includes, according to TMZ, trespassing, resisting arrest, battery on a police officer, and public drunkenness — not to mention shoplifting. Her problems have extended to her bank accounts as well. The Blast reported in April 2018 that Richards owed over $118,000 in back taxes from 2014 and 2013 to the state of California and that the government had slapped her with a lien for each year’s balance. Months later, Richards was also ordered to pay $266,000 in a settlement with a woman who’d sued Richards after allegedly suffering a bite from the troubled star’s pit bull.
Compounding Richards’ issues was the fact that in 2015 she was fired from the RHOBH franchise, reportedly, in part, because of her substance abuse issues. Around that time, a source told Radar Online that Richards was living with sister Kathy Hilton in her mansion. « Kim has been at Kathy and Rick’s house since she abruptly left rehab several weeks ago, » an insider revealed. « She has no place else to go, and no one in the family wants to loan her more money. » The insider added, « If it wasn’t for her family, Kim would be homeless. »
Sonja Morgan says it’s all John Travolta’s fault
In 2010, The Real Housewives of New York star Sonja Morgan filed for Chapter 11, claiming to be nearly $20 million in the red. E! News reported that Morgan listed $19.8 million in debts and $13.5 million in assets. Morgan alleged that she had a deal between her own company, Sonja Productions, and Hannibal Pictures, Inc. to make a John Travolta-starring film called Fash Flash to Bang Time.
The movie never happened, which Morgan blamed on Travolta’s alleged diva demands. As a result, Hannibal Pictures filed a lawsuit against Morgan, resulting in a $7 million judgment against her that she appealed. She told E! News in June 2015, that, with administrative fees, the $7 million judgment was actually closer to $9 million. She’s now out of bankruptcy, as she told E! News, and happy to keep her finances private. She admitted she had to sell her homes in France and Colorado to get back on her feet.
But Morgan wasn’t totally out of the woods just then. In December 2017, her bankruptcy attorneys sued her for allegedly not paying them $350,000 in legal fees, The Blast reported. The case was later dismissed for lack of documentation. Different lawyers involved in her bankruptcy case also sued her for $66,000, but that case was also dismissed on a technicality. In February 2017, TMZ reported that she’d also put her $10 million Upper East Side townhouse on the market.
Kenya Moore owed ‘moore’ in taxes
Just weeks before former The Real Housewives of Atlanta star Kenya Moore gave birth to daughter Brooklyn in 2018, she was slapped with a tax lien for $152,678.36, according to documents obtained by The Blast. The lien was placed against Moore’s home, which she lovingly named Moore Manor, meaning if she sells the property, Uncle Sam will see to it that he gets his money back before she makes a dime.
Moore previously admitted she was thinking of moving out of Moore Manor anyway, claiming the Atlanta property had too many memories of her ex-boyfriend, Matt Jordan. She’s since married Brooklyn restaurateur Marc Daly, as People reported, with whom she shares daughter Brooklyn. Considering that sources told the mag that Moore won’t be returning to RHOA after contract negotiations with Bravo hit a wall, the IRS may recoup their cash from her property sooner rather than later.
Still, her financial problems may extend beyond her taxes. A source told Radar Online in 2014 that Moore fakes much of her wealth. Specifically, the source claimed, « Kenya had a local car dealership in Atlanta give her a really expensive car on loan and then they got the publicity that she was driving a car from their lot. It was just during filming and it was a good deal for both of them. She was able to pretend she had a high end car and they got the free press. »
Danielle Staub racked up some major debt
The Real Housewives of New Jersey star Danielle Staub filed for bankruptcy in June 2012. The Star-Ledger reported that Staub filed for Chapter 7 protection, listing $1.9 million in debts and saying she only made $63,791 that year — $50,000 for appearing on little-watched VH1 reality show Famous Food and the rest for her work with Dial-A-Star. She’d been trying to sell her Wayne, N.J. mansion for years without success, despite marking it down nearly 40 percent to $899,000. She owed $111,161 to the IRS, $70,000 in taxes to Wayne Township, and $5,162 in New Jersey state taxes, as well as various other legal fees. Her other liabilities were mostly consumer debts, including bills from Nordstrom (a whopping $7,270) and smaller ones to Gap and Annie Sez clothing stores.
TMZ reported that Staub allegedly tried hiding some of her assets in the discovery phase of her bankruptcy case, but she quickly coughed up $35,000 to creditors in a settlement to avoid criminal charges. In July 2014, Radar Online reported that Staub was officially discharged of her $1.9 million bankruptcy debt — minus her back taxes, which she still has to pay.
Teresa Giudice’s bankruptcy filing landed her in the big house
Like fellow RHONJ star Danielle Staub — at whom she once famously flipped a table — Teresa Giudice and her husband, Joe, also filed for bankruptcy. However, they were accused of hiding assets and didn’t settle up like Staub did. The Associated Press reported in July 2013 that the Giudices were indicted on federal charges of « conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud, bank fraud, making false statements on loan applications and bankruptcy fraud » for allegedly falsely inflating their income when applying for loans before becoming Bravo stars — then allegedly hiding assets in their bankruptcy filing. Joe allegedly also did not file taxes from 2004 through 2008.
In March 2014, Teresa and Joe each entered guilty pleas despite initially pleading not guilty, People reported. Teresa served 11 months in prison; Joe was released in March 2019 after 41 months behind bars but, as of this writing, faces possible deportation. In June 2018, TMZ reported that the couple’s bankruptcy was dismissed, as they’d paid off everyone but the IRS and New Jersey state treasury. They had payment plans with each that were current as of press time to pay off their back taxes.
Lisa Wu lost her home
TMZ reported that former RHOA star Lisa Wu and then-husband Ed Hartwell defaulted on a home loan. Wu’s rep told the site that the pair tried to renegotiate the terms of their mortgage because the house, which they had purchased for $2.9 million in 2007, had lost value — to the tune of a full $1 million — when they tried to sell it. Wu later told Essence (via HuffPost), « The bank that held the mortgage chose not to allow us to sell and they chose to handle it in hopes that they would recoup the original value of our home by coming after us for the difference. We paid millions in taxes every year and chose to downgrade by moving to another one of our properties. » She continued, « Ed and I even wanted to rent our former home after the bank said they would restructure the loan to make it affordable, but ultimately they chose another route. We’ve lost more than $600,000 in that home. » As Wu said, the couple had moved into another property they owned, and the two later divorced.
NeNe Leakes owed Uncle Sam
RHOA star NeNe Leakes owed Uncle Sam quite a bit of dough. In December 2008, the New York Daily News reported that Leakes and husband Gregg were evicted from their five-bedroom home for owing $6,240 in back rent. Bravo wouldn’t comment on the matter, but Leakes said in an email to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution (via the New York Daily News), « [The house] was a lease purchase corporate deal with [Gregg] and his company. Things didn’t work out between the two of them so they did what they had to do and he did what he had to do. »
It wasn’t the last of NeNe’s no-nos. In August 2016, the Daily Mail reported that Leakes was hit with a tax lien of $824,366.01 for 2014, when she appeared on Dancing With the Stars, starred as the evil stepmother in Rodgers & Hammerstein’s Cinderella on Broadway, and launched her Home Shopping Network clothing line. The IRS reportedly threatened to seize her assets if she didn’t come up with the necessary cash. She responded to the news in a series of sarcastic tweets, writing, « Yes I am broke & unemployed. Just another dumb celeb that doesn’t know how 2 money manage. » She added, « My priorities [are] all screwed up! I’m just a damn fool out here about to lose my house! Please start a [GoFundMe]. »
Peggy Tanous hid her divorce and went broke
Former RHOC star Peggy Tanous filed for bankruptcy in 2013. In documents obtained by Radar Online, Tanous claimed that her only income at the time was listed as $2,500 in child support from her ex-husband, Micah, whom she’d never publicly acknowledged divorcing. Tanous’ home was foreclosed after she missed a whopping 75 mortgage payments. Radar Online reported in February 2015 that Tanous owed $1.5 million on her Irvine, Calif. property, which was allegedly only worth $840,000. She also reportedly owed $300,000 on a second mortgage from a different bank for the home. She was three days from a foreclosure sale when she filed for bankruptcy in 2013, the site claimed, and, in 2015, her mortgage lender asked a judge to lift her bankruptcy protection because she didn’t have equity in the property.
Tanous left the Real Housewives franchise in 2011, Us Weekly reported. She only appeared on the show for a single season and claimed in a Facebook post at the time that she’d been through « months of negotiations » before making her decision. She hasn’t been on the show since the sixth season.
Jacqueline Laurita and her husband went bankrupt
Yet another New Jersey housewife with financial problems was Jacqueline Laurita. Radar Online reported that Laurita and husband Chris’ clothing line, Signature Apparel, failed, leading them to file for bankruptcy in 2009. The couple was accused of knowing the company was sinking but still taking out business loans for personal use, which constitutes fraud. The move led the trustee of their bankruptcy case to sue the Lauritas for $7.8 million to pay back their debts. The Lauritas denied the allegations, but their legal headaches didn’t end there. Laurita’s attorneys dropped her in 2014, Radar Online reported, for allegedly refusing to pay for their services in the bankruptcy case.
A large portion of the Lauritas’ debts were reportedly in back taxes. Radar Online reported that the couple had a tax lien since 2013 for $338,337.05 in state taxes, as well as another federal lien of $85,127. They also paid off previous tax liens of $9,851 and $78,857.
Dorit Kemsley should teach her husband what ‘loan’ means
RHOBH star Dorit Kemsley and husband PK were sued in August 2018 by a former business partner, TMZ reported, for an alleged $205,000 loan for a swimwear line. Later that month, The Blast reported that the Bellagio Hotel and Casino sued PK in 2013 for $3.6 million he allegedly owed on a casino marker (a line of credit for high-stakes gamblers). He paid several $875,000 installments, but then claimed his bankruptcy filing in the U.K. covered that debt. However, the Bellagio filed documents in 2018 claiming that they weren’t informed that his marker was part of his bankruptcy filing. PK paid them $575,000, but, with interest accrued, he still owed more than $2 million. PK agreed to pay off his marker by June 2018, but allegedly stopped payments that May. In February 2019, The Blast reported that PK still owed the Bellagio $1.7 million and that his assets could be seized if he didn’t pay up.
In January 2019, The Blast reported that Nicos Kirzis sued PK for the balance of a $1.2 million loan that had a repayment deadline in 2013. Kemsley claimed that his U.K. bankruptcy filing wiped that debt out, but Kirzis alleged he was never listed as a creditor in the filing. A judge ruled that Kirzis could seize PK’s assets. Once Kirzis began the process, PK reportedly paid him $250,000, which allegedly barely covered the loan’s interest. A judge reportedly warned PK that, unless he files to vacate the judgment, Kirzis could seize his assets to repay the balance.
Robyn Dixon was vague about why she went bankrupt
The Real Housewives of Potomac star Robyn Dixon filed for bankruptcy in 2013, Radar Online reported. Dixon alleged that she was in $217,000 of debt and only made about $2,000 a month at the time. Her debts included $28,372 in car payments for her 2011 Volkswagen that was later repossessed, $16,577 to American Express, $10,871 to Discover, and around $3,000 to Bloomingdale’s. Her bankruptcy was reportedly discharged in 2014, when she was required to enroll in credit counseling — and to pay $16,183 in years of back taxes to the IRS.
She later told OK! magazine of her financial trouble, « When you hear someone has filed for bankruptcy, people picture people in the casinos just like, throwing money in the air, » adding, « No, that’s not what happened. There are clear reasons why we went through what we went through, and some things we could avoid. Some things we couldn’t. » She didn’t specify what any of those things were.