In the wake of Scandoval, the bar for Bravo drama has been raised ten fold. Ratings, fan-favoritism, and even the monetary earnings that coincide with being a reality star are at least somewhat contingent on the level of unhinged conflict a franchise delivers—and how good the Bravolebs look while stirring the pot. As any Housewives fan will tell you: The Salt Lake City girls didn’t disappoint. The season's conflict and glam set a high bar, both reaching the ultimate culmination during the long awaited reunion. Between Reality Von Tease, black eyes, and Trixie Mattel (only in the Bravo world could those three constructs have an invisible string), the first two installments have been nothing short of explosive. The third segment, which is set to air on Tuesday, January 23, is set to be an event of table flipping proportions.
But let it be known that the prep for the Andy Cohen-hosted event doesn't just involve the gathering of “receipts proof timeline screenshots.” The girls are hyper-focused on their appearances in the months leading up to taping. “The reunion is our glam Super Bowl,” Lisa Barlow tells me on a call from her car, as she’s jumping from one meeting into another. “Everybody sees us on the show and maybe we have bad lighting or bad shadowing. This is our one moment to show people what we really look like. There’s pressure to look like your best self.”
Of course, there are certain confines they must get glam within.
There’s a theme to abide by—and this year’s Bermuda-meets-Salt-Like set posed some interesting hurdles. “Everybody interpreted the theme differently. I was thinking San Tropez, a night out in Monaco eating at Joel Robuchon,” says Barlow, who wore a knit Tom Ford dress and styled her hair in silky mermaid waves. “Not everybody had the same vision.”
There are also time limitations (touch up opportunities have been slashed the past few years), a short supply of glam talent, and the near guarantee of heated and highly emotional exchanges to be captured on camera. “You have to build a bada–s,” jokes makeup artist Priscilla Distasio, who was responsible for Angie Katsanevas' face for the reunion. “If they look good and they feel good, they’re more likely to take the heat.”
Heat, there shall be, especially during part three. Ahead of the sure-to-be-explosive evening, I tapped Barlow, Distasio, and go-to Bravo hairstylist Julius Michael to get the inside scoop on the night’s biggest beauty secrets.
It’s a Race for Good Glam
If you find yourself watching an exorbitant amount of Bravo, you’ll know that there is a very specific Housewives glam aesthetic. It’s airbrushed skin, false lashes, a seemingly uniform pink-peach lip shade. It’s not by chance—the know-it-when-you-see-it look has been tailored by a small set of expert hairstylists and makeup artists that float from one Bravo star to the next. These few are uniquely acquainted with the ins and outs of the Housewives world—and booking them for the reunion is the equivalent of the Hunger Games.
The second the call for the reunion goes out, the girls quite literally pounce on their glam selects. “For someone like me that has worked with everyone, it’s first come, first serve,” says Distasio. “I’m always a yes girl and I try to accommodate everyone.” Sometimes, a double dip goes off without a hitch. For example, hairstylist Julius Michael worked on both Whitney Rose and Angie Katsanevas, who were (thankfully) on good terms and placed in the same trailer. But other times, double bookings can end in angst once the season fully airs. “They've watched every episode and they see what the other housewives are saying about them in their confessionals,” says Michael. “Friends that were once friends are now enemies and vice versa. It's always very high, high intensity.”
But, that’s not always the case. Some Housewives want their squad to be theirs alone—and rightfully so. If this season taught us anything, it’s that trusting your glam is paramount. “I don’t share my glam,” says Barlow, who admitted to spending an average of $60,000 a year on daily makeup. “I’m pretty territorial.” Barlow flew out makeup artist Nikki Rose-Bonaldi for the reunion and used go-to hairstylist Olivia Halpin for her gorgeous locks, both of whom she’s known since well before her Housewives days.
The Energy Feels Like a Beauty Boxing Ring
Most of the hairstylists and makeup artists floating in Bravo circles are on very friendly terms year-round. But when it’s reunion time: Loyalty to the client takes precedence. “If you are friends with a stylist or artist but your talent or housewife is not in cahoots with their client, it changes the vibe when we walk to set,” says Distasio, comparing the energy in the room to that of a wrestling match. “You’re like a deer with your eyes straightforward heading towards the ring.”
Reunions are an “emotional rollercoaster,” filled with camaraderie and laughs one moment, which is immediately followed by screaming and tears. “Glam becomes referees. Your girl comes off stage, and you’re giving water, powdering, getting your girl together, and playing mediator.”
Skin Prep Is Months in the Making
With cameras following talent around for months at a time, skin treatments that require downtime typically take a backseat, as the peeling, flaking, and redness that coincides with resurfacing treatments aren’t all too camera friendly. But the break between filming and reunion, means it’s go time. Barlow, for one, takes the hiatus to get her Moxy laser (it’s a fractional laser that helps smooth out skin tone and texture) and DiamondGlow facials. “We love the name and we love the facial,” she jokes.
As the reunion gets a little closer, the need for a fresh, even, non-orange spray tan comes to the forefront. Barlow, for one, has her routine down pat. “When I get to New York, I drop my bags and go to Sugared + Bronzed. Some people like to be pale. I do not. I want to be bronzed in the casket. John says when I’m not tan I look jaundiced,” she laughs.
I want to be bronzed in the casket.
A little tan gave her the extra boost to know that her overnighted Tom Ford dress would be a winner. “I was a little stressed, but you know what? I was like I weigh 113 pounds and I’m going to have a spray tan, so I’ll look 110 and it’ll all be fine.” (Spoiler: The dress was too big and Barlow had to source a smaller size day of, because what’s a reunion without some extra drama?)
There’s No Shortage of Brutal Honesty
Most of the girls give glam full independence, but occasionally they do come with preconceived notions of how they want to look. Case in point? Whitney and her slicked ponytail. “I did not want to do that ponytail,” Michael jokes, noting that he obviously loves the reality star despite their differing hair opinions. “I’m always honest.”
Time Is Tight in the Trailers
As true Bravo fans will know per Cohen’s day-of Instagram Stories, reunion filming days are long. Think: 15 hours. That said, the girls arrive bright and early to get started on their three hours of glam prep. It might sound like a sufficient amount of time, but Distasio assures me, it’s tight. “In that time, there’s hair, makeup, B roll, visits from Andy—you have to get everyone’s seventh inn stretch thoughts. There’s all these tedious things, and I would say you probably only get a good 60 minutes per person.”
It can be stressful—but it’s on the glam squad to bring high energy. “My girls are my hype girls,” says Barlow of Halpin and Rose. “I just did not feel like fighting the day of the reunion. You’re going through so many emotions in the dressing room and there are all these nerves. I didn’t write anything down this year, but I had a mental list of what I wanted to say. You just want to have a vibe in your room where you can have a clear head and process what you need to accomplish.”
Hydration Is Key
“You definitely need some collagen eye gel pads because we have teary eyes, we have no sleep, stressed ladies on the night before reunion,” says Distasio, who stocks her kit with all the hydration essentials. “We need some caffeine under there to get them plumped and looking like they're back to themselves.”
Waterproof Mascara Is a Must
Naturally, tears come to pass at a reunion, so extra strength lash glue and seriously waterproof mascara are non-negotiable. “I swear by Thrive Causemetics,” says DiStasio. “They make a waterproof mascara that doesn’t bleed or come off and it’s safe for teary days when you need to look good as you’re crying.” She also is a big fan of Christian Audette Black Panther Eyeliner, which “truly does not go anywhere.” Barlow, for her part, is a Benefit Cosmetics BadGal Bang! Waterproof Mascara girl.
Touch-Up Opps Have Been Cut—Big Time
Once upon a time, glam touch-ups were plentiful. Stylists and artists would huddle by the monitors, calling “pause” if a lash fell out of place or a hair went rogue. “My first reunion, I had no idea what was going on,” jokes Barlow. “Andy said we were moving on, but I was like, No we’re not moving on, I’m having a dress malfunction. I need help. Where’s wardrobe? I interrupted a whole conversation.”
As the drama and content have expanded, the breaks have been cut dramatically—making any opportunity that much more important. “I always go and make sure that the hair is not falling in their face or covering their eyes,” says Michael. “I want to make sure that you can see their facial expressions because the outtakes of them rolling their eyes are so precious and I don’t want to hide that from the viewers.” He relys heavily on his Voloom Volumizing Iron because "everyone needs volume," Hidden Crown hair extensions, and Kenra pomade to smooth out flyaways.
Distasio, for her part, uses the few minutes to swipe some ColourPop gloss on her girls. “They’re so juicy and keep the lips very hydrated.”
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