Has Marlo Hampton’s ‘Real Housewives of Atlanta’ Promotion Been a Flop?

·5 min read
Photo Illustration by Elizabeth Brockway/The Daily Beast/Bravo
Photo Illustration by Elizabeth Brockway/The Daily Beast/Bravo

Two questions have plagued Real Housewives of Atlanta viewers since what feels like the dawn of time: When will SHE by Sheree officially launch? And what’s been holding producers back from giving iconic friend-of Marlo Hampton her own peach?

Countless September-spring-summers have passed, and Season 14 of the Bravo series has finally resolved at least one of these pressing issues. After nearly a decade of tagging along on cast trips and sparring with nearly everyone, Hampton has finally been promoted to a full-time housewife. Sheree Whitefield’s line, on the other hand, seems to be a major plot point of the remainder of the season, despite the brand’s website lacking any purchasable fashions currently. Whether those joggers will ever come to fruition, who really knows?

But back to Hampton. RHOA viewers have been clamoring for years for Hampton, who’s a frequent highlight on the series, to be promoted. Now her debut run as a peach-carrying cast member is 14 episodes in. Is she living up to the nearly 10 years of build up?

While the announcement of the Le’ Archive owner becoming a housewife was initially met with excitement from RHOA fans (myself included), Hampton’s tenure, so far, has proven to be a bit of a flop and, quite frankly, an annoyance. Especially during a season that’s so close to being great.

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I’ve long considered myself a fan of Hampton, whose mysterious yet lucrative sources of income (according to the other housewives, old, rich white men) and obsession with labels made her a deeply fascinating character. Above all, she’s relentlessly petty and very good at getting the Atlanta women riled up, including in a recent episode where she told fellow Housewife and Grammy Award winner Kandi Burruss that she was “only known in Atlanta”—something that’s simply not true of a chart-topping singer or literally anyone on a nationally syndicated show. Still, Burruss, an easily upset woman, fell for the bait and proceeded to scream, “Bitch, I’m worldwide!” to an entire restaurant in Jamaica.

That episode was the rare occasion this season when Hampton’s poking and prodding resulted in a funny, meme-able moment. But aside from that, the fashion diva’s eagerness to attack Burruss for seemingly no reason and constant antagonizing of longtime frenemy Kenya Moore has made large portions of episodes either insufferable or downright boring. This was most evident in episode 11 when Hampton invited the women on a getaway in Blue Ridge that was entirely overshadowed by her sparring with Moore. She then ordered them to leave because she had made herself so upset.

In all fairness, Moore has proven to be equally capable of Hampton’s pettiness—although, the former Miss USA is a lot more creative than Hampton, who usually just goes below the belt or brings up things from nearly decade ago. Still, Moore has spent the entire season creating clear boundaries with Hamtpon and using pop-psychology terms she’s learned throughout her divorce to express her issues with her—facts Hampton has chosen to ignore so she can play victim.

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There’s also the other elephant in the fashion showroom: the situation with Hampton’s nephews, William and Michael, who may or may not be living with her currently. Since taking in the boys a few years ago following her sister’s recent incarceration, Hampton has been able to show viewers a softer, more maternal side in her new role as a “maunty”—up until she abruptly kicked the boys out of her home for causing her stress.

The very casual admission by Hampton a few episodes ago that she sent them to live with her sister (who already has two children and lives in a two-bedroom home) was both extremely jarring and frustrating. Buruss and Moore seem to be the only cast members truly upset by Hampton’s actions, pointing out that she may have triggered the boys' abandonment issues from their mother while also selfishly inconveniencing her sister, who presumably does not have as many resources as Hampton.

We find out throughout conversations that Hampton’s nephews have mostly just been behaving like children—not cleaning their rooms, neglecting their homework, and slacking on personal hygiene. She keeps reiterating that one of the boys punched a hole in the wall while she was out of town, like he was possessed by a demon and not probably suffering from some sort of emotional trauma.

I don’t say all of this to minimize the difficulty of being a parent. But it’s clear that Hampton had not been giving these boys any real structure aside from a literal place to live or implemented any consequences, something she could at least admit to during a filmed therapy session. It’s too bad she didn’t seek out this counsel before she sent them packing in the middle of night.

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So now I’m forced to think about the emotional state of Marlo’s adorable nephews while she goes on fancy vacations with the women and, ironically, brings up her own neglect as a foster child—on top of watching her get into the most annoying, repetitive spats.

Maybe we should’ve trusted the producers’ judgment when they only presented Hampton in small doses or alongside O.G. cast member Nene Leakes, who was able to keep her behavior somewhat in check. Now we have to watch the 46-year-old fashionista oscillate between villainy and victimhood, making none of the stakes in her relationships with the other women seem real or important.

At the end of day, every Real Housewives franchise needs a chaos agent to stir up some shit. But on the shadiest franchise of all time, Hampton has yet to add anything entertaining or fresh to the mix.

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