With the exception of Vicki Gunvalson — the only original cast member who is still on Real Housewives of Orange County — not everyone can be a Housewife forever. Unfortunately, "Housewife" ends up being a temporary title for a lot of cast members. Personally, I can't imagine why anyone would willingly quit this iconic TV franchise. Nevertheless, all the former Real Housewives stars had their reasons for leaving the franchise.
Whether it was the pressure and stress, a shakeup in the cast lineup, their families, or other projects to prioritize, it's definitely interesting to read through everyone's explanations for stepping away from the show.
If they're doing things right, being on a Real Housewives show provides the opportunity for the cast members to turn themselves into a brand and even become bona fide celebrities. But some women have walked away from the Housewife life and have been perfectly fine, even making cameo appearances here and there. Some, in super rare cases, have left the show and eventually returned as full-time cast members. And others I'm not so sure how to describe.
Regardless of how they ended up, here are 16 ladies who left Real Housewives and the explanations that they provided.
1. Heather Dubrow
After five seasons on Real Housewives of Orange County, I was actually super surprised that Heather Dubrow left the show since she had so many business ventures to promote. According to Bravo's The Daily Dish, Heather stated, "I have decided to go in another direction and do what's best for my family and career." Fair enough.
2. Bethenny Frankel
After a rough Season 3 of Real Housewives of New York City (never forget those Scary Island episodes), Bethenny left the show in 2010. At the time, the Skinnygirl founder told Us Weekly, “Last season was scary and painful. It took all of the joy out of it.”
Years later, we all know that Bethenny has had her own Bravo spinoff show, Bethenny Ever After, one season of her talk show, Bethenny, and that she ultimately did return to RHONY, but apparently she really needed that break from the ladies.
3. NeNe Leakes
After eight years as the center of attention, NeNe Leakes left Real Housewives of Atlanta behind in 2015. She told People, “This was definitely a hard decision for me. Me and my husband [Gregg Leakes] have been going back and forth on it for weeks now. But my contract is up and I just think this is the right time. This is my opportunity to spread my wings and do different things.” Since that time, NeNe has returned to RHOA for some cameo appearances and has been hosting E!'s Fashion Police.
4. Danielle Staub
After two seasons in the "villain" role on Real Housewives of New Jersey, my favorite Housewife, Danielle Staub, left the show. In 2010, Danielle explained how she felt in an interview with Us Weekly. Danielle stated, "I'm way too good for this. They have used me about as much as I can be used." After a rough couple years, I don't blame Danielle for saying, "I think it's time for me to move on and upward. I don't see any interest for me to be attacked like that."
5. Camille Grammer
In January 2012, former Real Housewives of Beverly Hills star Camille Grammer told The Huffington Post, "I had a good year, so I would want to go back for a third season, but they haven’t asked me yet, so I wonder what’s going on with that." Camille also admitted, “I guess they decided who they want, and I guess they are going to start casting, looking for new Housewives. They told me they were going to start looking, so it wasn’t behind my back. They were like, ‘Sorry, we are doing a big casting call.’ I was like, ‘Thanks.’"
Two months later, Camille clarified, "I was not fired." She added, “I didn’t want to expose my personal life so much anymore. I had done that and was over that. I care very much for my family and children and that show tends to take me away from them. I really want to focus on them right now."
At least Camille makes cameo appearances every now and then. That seems like a happy medium for everyone involved, including the viewers.
6. Jules Wainstein
After Jules Wainstein's husband, Michael, filed for divorce, I figured she was a lock to return to RHONY. However, Jules's rep told E! News that, "Jules is going good through a divorce and is putting her family first. [sic]" Makes sense.
7. Kim Zolciak
Kim Zolciak left RHOA after five years in the middle of filming and actually quit the show on camera while she was eight months pregnant. In her Bravo blog, Kim wrote, "The fighting. The stress. The gossip. The drama. I reached my boiling point." Kim elaborated, "I called it quits for this season, and I don't regret it at all. So no, I clearly wasn't fired, you can hear me say 'I'm done.'"
In that same post, Kim wrote, "But I won't be gone too long, my OWN spinoff premieres in the spring." Personally, I think Don't Be Tardy is such an adorable show, so that was enough to console me from losing Kim as a Housewife.
8. Caroline Manzo
In a post on her Bravo blog, Caroline Manzo explained her emotional decision to leave RHONJ. Caroline admitted, "Over the past few years my outlook on the show has changed from something I couldn't wait to show my future grandchildren to something I hope my future grandchildren never see." She also wrote, "I've always prided myself on being a good example for my children and my decision to leave is based on advice I've always given them: ‘Be true to yourself and be proud of who you are, you are born with a name and you die with a name, don't dirty it up.'"
Now, life seems to be way easier for Caroline since she has left the RHONJ craziness behind and went on to star in Manzo'd With Children along with her husband and children.
9. Kim Richards
Kim Richards never actually gave an explanation for her departure as a full-time cast member on RHOBH since she was in rehab at the time E! broke the Housewives news in June 2015. A few months later, Kim's sister Kyle Richards told Bravotv.com, "It felt very strange, but the timing just wasn't right because she was taking care of herself, and, so, it took some getting used to."
10. Lydia McLaughlin
When Lydia quit RHOC back in 2013, she explained to Us Weekly, "I compare it to breaking up with a boyfriend you know you're not going to end up with — it's hard, but overall you know you're doing the right thing." She also said, "I never wanted to make a career out of being a housewife. That's never really been a dream of mine."
11. Jill Zarin
After being one of four cast members to leave RHONY after Season 4, Jill Zarin's rep released a statement to People saying, “Jill is humbled by the extraordinary amount of media interest in her response and looks forward to personally opening up about all of this very soon and announcing some exciting new projects.”
Later, on an episode of Oprah: Where Are They Now? Jill told an interesting story about her firing: "One night... I think I took a sleeping pill, and I typed out an email to my producer and three out of the five Housewives. And I said, ‘I’m leaving the show. I want to leave on a high. I’m in a good place right now.’” She says she didn't include the Bravo network in the message, but admitted, "I kind of got cold feet the next day, and I said, ‘Ah, that was stupid, I shouldn’t have sent that email out.’” She added, “So, when I got the phone call from my production company, I knew.”
At the time it was announced she was leaving, a rep for Bravo released a statement to People reading, "Ramona Singer, Sonja Morgan and LuAnn DeLesseps will be returning for season 5 of The Real Housewives of New York City. We’ve had a fabulous run with all the ladies and appreciate them sharing their lives with our viewers. It is a friendly departure among the other ladies and we continue to have on-going discussions with them.”
12. Shereé Whitfield
In 2012, Shereé Whitfield explained her departure from Real Housewives of Atlanta in an exclusive with Wetpaint. Shereé stated, "The direction the show is going in is no longer a fit for my lifestyle. I'm tired of the fighting and the cattiness. I want to be part of something that empowers and inspires women to not only be healthy, but to treat themselves with respect." S
hereé also said, "I wish the rest of the women the best of luck. I'm thrilled to say I'm now a free agent and am already fielding offers." Shereé eventually returned to RHOA.
13. Dina Manzo
Dina Manzo actually left Real Housewives of New Jersey twice. Dina quit the show in the middle of Season 2 because of castmate Danielle Staub. Dina told E!, "The only way I can truly get Danielle out my life is to not be in contact filming with her. That way I don't have to talk about her, and I don't have to be around her."
Years later Dina returned and quit again because she moved to California. She told People, “I don’t live in New Jersey anymore. I went through my divorce this year [and] I moved out to California, so it didn’t make sense.”
14. Brandi Glanville
Brandi Glanville explained her exit from Real Housewives of Beverly Hills in a statement that she released to the Bravo website. Brandi said that it was her call to leave: "After a lot of careful thought and deliberation I have decided not to return to RHOBH as a full time cast member this season."
The statement also said, "The past four years have been amazing, a complete roller coaster of a ride. I will always be thankful to Bravo for the opportunities that have come along with doing this pop culture phenomenon of a show ... In the meantime, I'm working hard on my podcast, my new wine business, and my clothing line. And keep an eye out for my next adventure that will show everyone a more well-rounded side of who I really am."
And she actually has been keeping up with most of that.
Once a Real Housewife, always a Real Housewife. Sure, these women may no longer be on the shows that made them famous, but they will forever be remembered and adored by the fandom.