Despite pulling in massive ratings week after week—I continue to watch against my better judgment—Real Housewives of Beverly Hills is in a full-on moment of crisis. I’d argue one more dire than the catastrophic last season of Real Housewives of New York, which resulted in an axed reunion and the complete disbandment of the show.
The show’s string of conflicts is currently being dictated—and manipulated—by an impenetrable clique of veterans known as The Fox Force Five, which now unofficially includes freshman housewife Diana Jenkins. (On the other hand, I am both a Slutton and a Garcelle ride-or-die).
As a result, watching these women argue is like watching someone try to fit a square peg into a round hole over and over again—the round hole being the Fox Flop Five and the square peg being the more likable group of cast members Garcelle Beauvais, Sutton Stracke and Crystal Kung Minkoff, who are perpetually marginalized no matter what they do. Weirdly, the core alliance (referred to as #RHOBHMeanGirls on Twitter) has only become stronger as they’ve become more criticized. Which has also led to a hyper-awareness amongst the women (but especially Lisa Rinna) of how they’re being perceived on social media and the need to defend themselves in the worst possible ways.
Still, there is one recurring figure throughout this season that brings a smile to my face, an occasional reminder of what this franchise used to be when it was just a bunch of silly, rich people living in the moment, before it became a calculated political game. And no, it’s not Kathy Hilton. It’s Jenkins’ 33-year-old, shaggy-haired fiancé and musician, Asher Monroe.
When viewers were first introduced to Monroe at the start of the season, he was the butt of a million jokes. (Some of which are not my place to repeat, but I encourage you to watch Bowen Yang and Matt Rogers’ take on Watch What Happens Live). Viewers have been struck by his eccentric fashion, a mix of Los Angeles hipster and ’70s kitsch, and obviously the age difference between him and his wife, who, according to Google, is “about 49 years old.” But there is also his curious music career, which has been unsubtly promoted several times this season, either by causal mention or a random performance, like an Erika Jayne-assisted rendition of “O Holy Night.” Overall, I would describe him as having Cedric Martinez energy with Luann De Lesseps aspirations.
The main thing that makes Monroe’s presence notable to me, however, is that I unfortunately have my own personal connection to this man. He’s a former crush you might say, thanks to his starring role in the 2009 critically panned Fame remake. Monroe, who went by the last name Book at the time, played a character named Marco Ramonte, who was the love interest to Kay Panabaker’s Jenny Garrison. He performs a cover of John Legend’s “Ordinary People” in the movie as well as an original song called “Try” that I wore out on my iPod Touch.
It was clear that Monroe, whose main claim to fame at the time was Broadway, was pursuing a career as a young Hollywood heartthrob and potential pop star. And that he was to my horny 13-year-old brain. In addition to rewatching Fame a gazillion times, I recall visiting Monroe’s Myspace page quite frequently, checking for new music and movie announcements that never came. I discovered that he was also in a boy band called V Factory, formed by Tommy Page under Warner Bros. They became Radio Disney darlings for a moment before completely going off the radar.
All of this is to say, imagine my utter shock when, more than a decade later, I slowly recognized that dimpled chin and, of course, the name while casually tuning in to Real Housewives of Beverly Hills. I still don’t know what to make of him reappearing in my life this way, except to text every RHOBH viewer in my phone, “Diana’s fiancé is that guy from Fame!!!” (before then having to explain that there was a Fame remake in 2009). It’s deeply random and useless piece of pop-culture knowledge that doesn’t earn me any cool points in the taste department. And yet I can’t shut up about it.
Despite how much I’ve enjoyed Monroe’s strangely delightful appearances on RHOBH, they have not reignited my thirst for him one bit. For one thing, the type of white man I’m attracted to in my adulthood has evolved. He also looks very different from the short-haired, Hollister-model version of himself in the early 2010s and dresses terribly. Namely, he’s married to truly one of the meanest and most insufferable women I’ve ever witnessed on reality television, whose track record with Black people is, well… not great.
Still, I somewhat empathize with Monroe’s relationship to a rather terrible person. If I was a struggling artist in Hollywood and some Eurotrash woman agreed to sponsor my singing career, I would take up that opportunity in a heartbeat and hold onto it for dear life. What musician wouldn’t want access to Jenkins’ BFF Elton John, who seems willing to publicly co-sign literally anyone under 35 who puts out a record? (Monroe has, in fact, been a guest on John’s Apple Music show Rocket Hour).
It’s unfortunate then that Monroe’s tenure on RHOBH could be a one-and-done, considering how controversial his wife is on social media. However, plenty of annoying people have extended their stay on this franchise, so who really knows? Either way, I’m glad Monroe has given us something to gawk at other than the repulsive behavior that has soured much of the show. I’m praying he performs ten more ballads before the season is over.