'RHODubai' Cast Spills on Their Season 1 Drama and Shutting Down Stereotypes (Exclusive)

'The Real Housewives of Dubai' stars fill ET in on what's to come in their debut season. Plus, how the UAE feels about the show!

There's apparently plenty of shade in the desert. Well, at least the metaphoric kind.

"Sometimes we get along, sometimes we don't. It just depends on where the wind blows in the desert," The Real Housewives of Dubai's Lesa Milan tells ET of how she and her castmates gel. Lesa stars alongside Caroline Stanbury, Caroline Brooks, Nina Ali, Chanel Ayan and Sara Al Madani in Bravo's first-ever intentional iteration of the network's hit Housewives series (other foreign cities, like Melbourne, weren't commissioned or produced by Bravo) -- six outspoken, driven women forging their own paths in the United Arab Emirates.

It's a mix of old and new friends on RHODubai, with Nina -- a lifestyle influencer and businesswoman -- seeming to be the great connector. She's friends with everyone, potentially closest with Caroline, who quickly bonds with Brooks. Lesa and Ayan are a bit of a BFF duo, while serial entrepreneur/public speaker Sara describes herself as "the guru of the group," with the unique ability to get along with everyone.

"I might be like the kind, loving, whatever angel, but sometimes you got to get your halo dirty," she confesses.

It should be no surprise that these ladies don't always see eye to evil eye, but there is one thing they agree on: Brooks is the pot-stirrer amongst them, as already proven in a first look Bravo debuted last week. In the sneak peek, Brooks calls up Lesa to gossip about how Caroline did not invite Ayan to her bachelorette party, unwittingly trashing her castmate, who's eavesdropping over speaker phone.

"I think it's fitting," Brooks admits of the label. "I throw a little shade, but I love everyone. I don't want to hurt anyone. I just have one too many drinks sometimes and things come out wrong, but I say sorry every time."

"I think I'm going to be watching some of the episodes through my fingertips, like, 'Ooh. Ah, why?!'" the Boston-raised businesswoman then confesses. "I don't know. I think I'm going to dread a lot. I just need to watch it. I don't know. I'm scared!" 

"I don't know who I'm going to get," Ayan, a model launching her own beauty brand, says of Brooks. "That's my issue. She likes to piss me off, and she likes to cry about things towards me, and that I do not like."

"She just likes to find a way to anger me intentionally so she can enjoy it," she adds. "I'm her friend and sometimes she's my enemy. So it's like that. ... But I do love her. I do love her as my friend and I care about her, but we do have issues."

"We say, she drops a bomb and she goes, 'Oops!'" Caroline remarks. 

"She runs -- literally runs -- drops it, leaves it and runs," Nina adds. 

"But as I run, I'm talking a lot of trash," Brooks cracks. "And then I call, 'Listen, Nina, I'm really sorry about what happened yesterday. Like I love you so much...'"

"At six o'clock in the morning!" Nina interjects. "Literally, six in the morning."

"As soon as I roll over," Brooks confirms. "I don't always say sorry. I say sorry when I mean it, by the way. I don't always say sorry. Sometimes I mean it. Sometimes it actually takes a couple of glasses of sauvignon blanc for me to actually tell the girl how I feel about her."

"But when I apologize, when you see that in the season about things that I know I was wrong for, I really mean it," she reiterates. "But when you don't hear an apology from me, every word that I said to that woman, I meant it. Whether I had too many glasses of wine or not, I stand 10 toes down on what I say, that's it. Take it or leave it."

The Real Housewives of Dubai is a first for the region; the franchise hasn't yet aired in the United Arab Emirates, leading to some confusion amongst the locals as to what to expect from the show.

"We're talking about a legacy coming all the way to Dubai to do this show," Sara remarks. "The franchise is a legacy, so we have mixed feelings about it. Some are OK with it, some are excited and then some are not because they still don't understand the concept of it. And the concept is that we are not representing how housewives are in Dubai, and we are not representing any housewives, whether she's Emirate or not. I'm Emirate. I'm not representing any woman from the Emirates. I'm representing me and all the girls are representing themselves."

"There's mixed emotions, mixed opinions, mixed feelings," Nina echoes. "The ones that know Housewives understand it and the ones that don't, there's this misconception that the Housewives of Dubai means, like, literally housewives sitting at home ironing and cooking and going to Waitrose down the street, but it's not. So I think a lot of people, when they see the show, they'll realize that this is not what it's about."

"I think once the show comes out and people get the hang of it, they're going to see that it's fun," Sara says. "It's entertainment. And at the same time, it's like a window to showing our personal lives as entrepreneurs, as moms, as married. I'm not married. I'm single. As people who are married and just taking you on a ride and hopefully inspiring a lot of women out there."

"[People are] taking the name, The Real Housewives, literally," Brooks jumps in to add. "I'm a divorcèe and I'm a Housewife, right? It's just lack of knowledge, right? They don't understand. So they're taking the title of the franchise name, The Real Housewives, seriously saying, 'My wife is a housewife. She sits at home and changes Pampers and cooks every day...' Well, I don't. I don't want to change dirty diapers. I have a nanny for that. And you know what? That's just the name of the show."

"I'm mostly excited about is for people to see how women are in the Middle East and how our life is, and how we have fun in Dubai and the things we do in Dubai," Sara notes. 



Ahead of the series premiere, a number of human rights groups banded together to send an open letter to the network asking it to speak out against the government in the United Arab Emirates, pleading in part for Bravo to demonstrate opposition to the women's rights violations, homophobia and violence that has been carried out by the rulers of Dubai and the United Arab Emirates. Bravo has yet to respond to the three-page ask, but the cast is adamant that they're not meant to represent the country. They're on the show to represent themselves and their experience in the country, not a universal experience. 

"When I first got casted, I was kind of worried about doing it because I've never done reality TV," Sara reflects. "I don't know if that's the path I want to take in life. But then as I slept on it, like, the idea, I was like, OK. I know there's a lot of stereotypes in the Western world about Arab women and how they live their life, and the Middle East. So I thought, why not throw myself in sacrifice to show the world how we are here, where we're from and how we live? And hopefully, I wanted to inspire some women to just go out there, live their dreams and just be who they want to be. So to me, it's just a window for me to talk to the world about how we are and who we are and how things are here so we can kill all the stereotypes."

"I wanted to sign up because since I was a young girl, I've always wanted to be seen," the model shares. "I would literally be in my village, I grew up in a tiny village [in Africa], and I wanted everybody to know who I was. So I just feel like this was the perfect for me, where the world gets to see Ayan, gets to know me, gets know my life. So I was really, really excited about it. Why wouldn't I sign for it? It's epic. It's like the dream."

Brooks, Nina and Caroline -- who's no stranger to reality TV, starring on three seasons of Bravo's Housewives-like series Ladies of London -- felt similarly; they wanted to showcase their lives and inspire. Lesa, meanwhile, wanted to prove her growth to people. She's familiar to TV audiences, too, having starred on BET's College Hill back in 2009.

"It was quite an experience," she says of her original reality rodeo. When Bravo announced Lesa's casting, old clips of verbal altercations she found herself in on College Hill resurfaced online. 

"It was over a decade ago and there was no social media, so it's a whole different ball game, a whole different era," she says. "I didn't say yes [to RHODubai] immediately, but the girls in my group, they were like, 'Come on, do it. It's going to be fun,' and I thought, 'You know what? It could actually be really fun.' I had to convince my husband, 'cause he's quite private -- he's really private -- so I had to convince him, but I thought it would be a great opportunity for me to inspire women who are like me, young female entrepreneurs. I've always said, 'If you can dream it, you can achieve it.' And I'm a wife, I'm a mom and I'm the owner of luxury maternity brand. So it was just a no-brainer for me, to be honest. It's a great platform to show exactly who I am."


Lesa says the most important lesson she learned from her College Hill days was to stay off the blogs, sage advice for the ages. She and Ayan already created a little social media drama for the fan accounts by labeling Caroline a "snake" on Twitter. Caroline says she'll be their friend when "hell freezes over," and the feud with bleeds over to Lesa and Ayan's relationship with the other Caroline, Brooks.

"Caroline and I get along really well, and that may have not sat well with certain people," Brooks quips, "but it's their problem, not mine. I have a lot of love for Lesa and Chanel, but I get to pick my friends. We're not in high school."

Friendships in general can be complicated, but throwing reality TV cameras in the mix -- specifically Real Housewives cameras -- can up the chaos factor. Thankfully, the ladies of RHODubai have women from 10 other cities to turn to for advice.

"Phaedra [Parks], who I've been family friends with for over a decade, basically told me to buckle up," Brooks confesses. "It's going to be a very, very crazy ride."

Brooks is the one Housewives fans have to thank for bringing Phaedra back to Housewives; the Real Housewives of Atlanta alum pops up for a cameo appearance during Dubai's debut season. "I'm so excited for all of the Bravo fans to see, not only mine and Phaedra's relationship, but to see why Phaedra came to Dubai," Brooks teases. 

Ayan also touched base with Phaedra along with a number of other Housewives, essentially curating her own, personal BravoCon.

"The first person that reached out for me was Dolores [Catania] from New Jersey," Ayan rattles off. "She gave me a lot of advice. And then Jen Shah, I literally speak to her almost every day. She's so real and tells me how it is. And she introduced me to all the cast members of Salt Lake City on FaceTime when I was in New York. So I thought that was amazing. I was star-struck. It was crazy. And then I met Kenya Moore on FaceTime."

"I haven't met all [the women I want to]," she adds. "I want to meet Kim [Richards], Kyle's sister."


Ayan seems to gravitate to the more controversial (or maybe, misunderstood) members of the Housewives sorority because, as she puts it, she's "one of the kookies, you know?" She's also got a lot of personal story to share. 

"I'm so excited to show the world that I am a mother. I have a son who's almost 17, I've been married for almost 23 years," she notes. "I want [the audience] to see that I come from a very different background and I've gone through a lot. So I have a lot of all these things that I experienced that I didn't know about, I talk about. I'm very open. I would say that I have all this beautiful pain that I didn't know I was dealing with, so I literally let people see, and I actually open up and go with them through the experience, because I never opened up to myself in that way."

"Also do not play with me," she then declares. "I don't let nobody play with me. I speak my mind. I tell you how it is, 24 hours a day. And like that, it's done for the day."

Lesa offers a similar warning: "Sometimes Milan comes out," she says, referencing the name she went by in her College Hill days. "She will still check you."

The Real Housewives of Dubai premieres Wednesday, June 1, at 9 p.m. ET/PT on Bravo


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