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Mormon influencers respond to “real housewives in Salt Lake City”

This is an excerpt from Please like me, BuzzFeed News’ newsletter on how influencers are fighting for your attention. You can sign up here.

The Reel Housewives of Salt Lake City have something to say

I’ve never seen one Housewives show from the start before, but knew I needed to tune in to the premiere. The new series really has everything that my colleagues wrote all about this week. But I was also fascinated by the show̵

7;s proximity to one of my favorite topics: Mormon bloggers.

Whatever the reason, many of the best influencers on Instagram and especially the top mom bloggers from the early 2010s are practicing members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I’ve tried to write an article about why it’s dozens of times over the last few years, but I never really got anywhere, mainly because the reasons are opaque, varied, and complicated. But the phenomenon is fascinating.

When Bravo announced the show, many women wondered if some of the greatest Utah bloggers would be exploited as housewives, with fashion influencer icon Rachel Parcell being a top choice. However, it appears that Bravo has deliberately chosen women who are not church members, former church members, or consider themselves “Mormon 2.0.” I do not know why, but my best guess is that the producers would have a hard time creating their normal dramatic fights if everyone was sober.

Bravo promoted the show hard on social media before the premiere and worked with influencers like Kathleen Barnes to post their own recaps of the show. Dog show also got lots of attention on social media from Mormon influencers. And they were NOT happy about it.

After the show premiered Wednesday, a chorus of Utah-based Mormon influencers began posting almost unanimously about how dissatisfied they were with the show’s portrayal of their religion and state.

Instagram / arasarajanewarner / ritbrittanymaddux

The influencers’ responses ranged from angry rage and sharp setbacks to being mildly irritated. The most important grip they all seemed to have was that the show portrayed their culture as false and materialistic, with a line about “darkness” brewing beneath Salt Lake City’s perfection, apparently stuck in their search. Many blew up the show as they spat “lies” about their beliefs or misrepresent key elements in it.

An interesting post was from Emily Jackson, Rachel Parcell’s sister, who got involved in a rather awkward situation. Emily also collaborated with Bravo for the premiere, posting an Instagram Reels video about the show. She even spilled tea on some of the cast and said she actually knows one of the cast quite well.

However, she soon drew lots of setbacks for her positive review of the show. Other church members blasted her for promoting something they felt misled their faith.

Emily was in a tough spot here. She was contractually obligated to promote the show (presumably in a positive light), no matter what she personally thought about the depiction of the church or town where she lives. But when she fulfilled her obligation, she cursed the part of her fan base that is church members. She tried to smooth things over by clarifying in an Instagram story that she wanted to keep her review light, but that she disagreed with some of the comments about and portrayal of her faith. I asked Emily to chat with me about this, but she did not answer. (Rachel also gave her own review, staying measured, but agreeing with her sister.)

This is the part of the newsletter where we usually deliver our ~ hot take ~. To be honest, I do not have much analysis besides loving the drama. I love the window into the Mormon influencer world and views we rarely see. Many of these women rarely discuss their religious beliefs in detail, so it is interesting to see them offer their analysis in such a pointed way.

I think a lot of the criticism is a bit much (housewives are always exaggerated and over the top – no one expects the whole of Salt Lake City to be like that). I do understand, though, that for many of these women, their faith is something deeply personal, and they are really sorry for the way it was discussed on the show. If they want to share it on their Instagram account, they have a right to it. And it lets us see a new side of them that, whether you agree with their opinions or not, is certainly interesting.

However, I think we can all agree on one thing. The real winners in all this drama are the executives at Bravo, who should be absolutely delighted with this.

—Stephanie McNeal

Do you remember when celebrities issued their heartfelt PSAs about coronavirus security? We could use the same energy right now.

The pandemic is starting to feel like a hallucination. We cycle through periods that are tragically familiar as we also enter new, scary areas. COVID cases are at a peak and Americans are stumbling again to weigh the potential loss of business against human life.

Therefore, it is especially trembling that – after the attack on celebrity and influencer security campaigns we got in March – there has been little or no visibility this time on social media.

Where does Shawn Mendes say in his woo-woo gems that I need to be safe? Where are all my influential people posing in their cute lounge attire, assuring me that we are “all in this”? Where is our third wave “Imagine” video ???

Of course, their pleas and positions should be less important than hearing from our local and federal officials. But celebrity influence is always more influential than we would like to admit. Hate it or love it, a lot of people turn to their favorite famous person to help make sense of their own lives. (The simple theme Stephanie and I hammer over and over in these newsletters is that influential people have influence !!!)

That’s why I reported in early April on the World Health Organization investing large marketing dollars in social media campaigns, including an AI influence, intended to encourage people to stop spreading the virus.

Perhaps celebrities, like many of us, experience exhaustion from being vigilant and keeping orders. Maybe they don’t care. Maybe they literally or metaphorically feel immune to the pandemic. Or maybe – something more pragmatic – no one encourages or pays them to write about it anymore.

I guess I was so encouraged by how connected celebs and influencers felt around election season and I thought they would bring the same energy to the current crisis.

But it’s not too late !!! If you are an influencer reading this, [Bernie meme] I ask you once again to use your platform for the common good and for public health. If you’re a fan, I’m asking you to ask your favorite influencers to share stats to raise awareness, tips to keep the holiday season safe, and, my god, I’m even taking an interpretive dance from Glee‘s Heather Morris. It’s a start.

Until next time,


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