Inside the making of the those major moments that brought fans “up close and personal” with Bravolebrities and beyond.
Bravo Insider is celebrating BravoCon 2019 one year later by taking a look back at the wildest and most exciting moments — including the ones you didn’t get to see. Bravolebs, producers, and executives recalled their favorite memories, revealed behind-the-scene details from the VIP areas, and spilled some never-before-heard secrets from those iconic three days in NYC.
When BravoCon took over three venues across Manhattan in November 2019, the weekend wasn’t just about celebrating the galaxy of outgoing and outspoken stars who share all with viewers on their respective series, but also about celebrating the viewers — as well as the producers and executives behind the scenes.
During BravoCon weekend, producers and executives stepped out from behind the camera and spilled some of the biggest secrets about working on the shows Bravo fans cherish.
In an interview first shared exclusively with Bravo Insider members, The Daily Dish spoke to the producers and executives who helped create the massive event, including panels featuring Bravolebs, and those who also stepped up on stage to become the stars themselves for those glorious three days and connected with fans like never before.
Here are their memories from that event, one year later.
Teams from across Bravo gathered forces to dream up the panel ideas and the talent that would appear together on stages at the three venues — The Manhattan Center, Skylight Modern, and Union West — that housed the event which took place on November 15, 16 and 17, 2019.
Maria Laino DeLuca, Senior Vice President, Consumer and Social Marketing, Bravo and Universal Kids: I have to say, the most fun part of putting this whole thing together was coming up with the panel ideas and writing the names and descriptions for them. The way we did that was by brainstorming with the north star of, if you’re a Bravo fan what experiences would be epic to you? What mix of casts would you want to come together? That crossover and that creative thinking was so well-received.
Sezin Cavusoglu, Vice President, Bravo Current Production: [On the panels we wanted to convey that] we stick to authentic storytelling and we’re there for the good, the bad, and the ugly. And I think a lot of the audience members and the fans who were there that weekend, that’s what they were relating to. That’s what they were responding to. So to me, it was just incredibly gratifying and I felt very good about what we do and how we do it and it was also great fun to give that kind of access to our fans.
Deirdre Connolly, Executive Producer for Watch What Happens Live with Andy Cohen at Embassy Row: Our Watch What Happens Live team is pretty much a walking encyclopedia of Bravo history. So, when they started talking about BravoCon, it was like of course Watch What Happens Live’s team is a natural fit to help produce the content of these panels because we are fans, too. We are watching these shows as fans. We know the questions to ask and we know the information that people are seeking out. And so, I think we were able to craft panels and questions and games that were very satisfying and juicy and salacious in the right way to fans.
In addition to panels highlighting Bravo stars, show producers and executives also took the stage and sat down in front of Bravo fans at panels like The Real Tea with Bravo Producers panel presented by Pure Leaf and spilled secrets from the shows they produce.
Cavusoglu: [For the producers’ panels], for example, Darren Ward, who I wanted to put on one of the panels, I know that Darren was on Scary Island [during that RHONY trip] and he flew back with Kelly Bensimon when she left. So I wanted those very specific questions in there so that when the moderator brought those things up, the audience would gasp because that was really giving them firsthand knowledge, someone with firsthand knowledge was talking to them about what that was like. All these iconic moments, I wanted to make sure that we were including a good array of people from our showrunners and our producers pool.
Nadine Rajabi, Below Deck Mediterranean Executive Producer: Being chosen to represent the Bravo producers and sharing a stage with Aaron Rothman (Southern Charm), Lorraine Haughton Lawson (The Real Housewives of Atlanta, The Real Housewives of Potomac), and Bill Langworthy (Vanderpump Rules) was a huge honor for me. In addition to being a producer, I’m also a superfan so to hear their experiences, swap stories, and commiserate over some of the odd challenges we all face felt inspiring… and at times a little bit like a really unusual support group!
Rajabi: I loved hearing the producers share iconic TV moments and just what happened in that very moment on the other side as it was happening. I also loved hearing how they use a lot of cast trips to get them all in one place because they’d finally have to face each other with nowhere to go. I made a joke to one of them and said, “Welcome to Below Deck!”
Lorraine Haughton Lawson, Executive Producer on The Real Housewives of Atlanta, The Real Housewives of Potomac: I think what I always want people to know is that these shows are real. For our shows it is all so much based on story and what’s really happening in the lives of our cast members… To me it was really fun to be able to give [the fans] any little tidbit or give them some different insight into who these people really are or what really happened behind the scenes that they didn’t know about because they always are so excited to hear whatever, to learn whatever.
Rajabi: What a lot of fans don’t realize is as producers we live and breathe the show parallel to the cast. We are having similar experiences documenting everything. Learning about how the other producers dealt with difficult situations or how one event changed the trajectory of a particular series was incredibly interesting to me. Despite our jobs being so similar, it was eye-opening to hear their perspective and hear just how different producing every series truly is. I have a whole new level of respect and admiration for what my peers have been through to enjoy the well-deserved success they have today.
Cavusoglu: There was a really fun moment for me. It was Sunday’s producers’ panel if, I’m not mistaken. It was kind of early and so I was able to actually sit and watch that panel because it was Sunday morning. I think we all felt like we have everything under control and we can relax for a minute. So, one of the questions to the producers was about the cast trips. Then, there’s always been this speculation — we have never, I think, fully disclosed like who pays for the trips. But so one of the audience members or the moderator, I can’t remember, they were pressing the producers about it. Like, "Come on, doesn’t Bravo pay for the trips?" basically. And the producers were all feeling nervous on stage. So I remember I made eye contact with [RHOA producer] Glenda Cox — I basically nodded to her, I was like it’s OK, you can tell them.
And it took her a minute, but then she grabbed the mic and she said, ‘I just got approval from Bravo to tell you that Bravo pays for the trips.’ And everybody just loved it. They loved it and I think people on the stage were a little taken aback but, I was like, it’s OK. So that was such a fun rewarding moment.
Rajabi: It was the most invigorating experience of my life. Truly. A lot of times people say, “Wow! You live such a glamorous life. You’re always on a yacht... it must be the best job on earth.” I’m not going to lie, I love my job, but what people don’t see is that we don’t see the light of day and work in a vacuum sometimes. So when I see that fans that are truly engaged and interacting with the series in a way I never imagined, it gives me life. I love that people enjoy it and it can be their escapism for an hour a week. I remember when I set out to work in entertainment, I made a mission to be able to help people and let them be present through laughter and storytelling. It’s the most rewarding thing in the whole world.
In production, it’s easy to lose perspective sometimes, so to see how lives can be impacted by watching a show, or to hear that fans loved a moment (or even hated a moment), I wanted to hear it all. I feel like I learned a tremendous amount by looking at the show through their lens.
Haughton Lawson: It was completely surreal. I think there are some producers who are very much people who want to be in the forefront, and want that notoriety and want people to know who they are. I’m much more of a background kind of person. So, it was completely surreal. And, having all the fans come up to me as if I was also a celebrity, I was like wait a minute, this is really weird. But it was fun. It was fun to see the enthusiasm and see how into the shows that the viewers are. And you realize all the hard work that you do is for a reason, right? Because people get so invested. It’s become such an important part of their life.
Cavusoglu: The producers’ panels all were really, really fun for me -- just to be able to pull the curtain back and hearing the audience questions -- just seeing how much that any info that they had to reveal, how appreciated that was, that was pretty awesome. I wanted there to be clear takeaways from BravoCon like that. That it’s not just a fan event, it’s also like Bravo is very honest about the process, and Bravo is wanting to let the audience in on these little tidbits.
Many of the panels that took place over the weekend did allow the stars of shows from across Bravo, past and present, to open up more about their lives with the viewers who live for every juicy reveal.
Andy Cohen, host of WWHL and Executive Producer of The Real Housewives franchise: My highlight beyond doing Watch What Happens Live was getting together with Caroline Manzo, Jill Zarin, Kim Richards, Kim Zolciak and the other OGs that were in that first OG panel that I did.
Laino DeLuca: That was probably one of the first panels that we said, "Hey, we need to have the OGs. We need to have them all together." [Andy] was just really instrumental in guiding us and was very much a part of the planning of all of this.
Cavusoglu: I think the Vanderpump [Rules] kids got a little rowdy maybe [on their panels], which is to be expected. Before The Real Housewives of New York City panel on Friday afternoon, we ran little clips before the panel all walked out. So the entire cast of The Real Housewives of New York City huddled around this tiny little screen backstage in the wings as they were waiting to be called out to the stage and watching it, and then all turning to me and being like, "we want a copy of this, this is great." That was a really funny moment. And I was like, "You all lived through that and all of that has aired, don’t you have them on your DVR?" That was a really, really sweet moment.
Haughton Lawson: Watching Gizelle [Bryant] and Ashley [Darby from RHOP] and I feel like those were the two that were on the panel that I saw, watching them just sit up there with confidence like, "Yeah, we belong here, like, our show is the s--t, too’ [and] watching the fans really respond. I feel like I got more questions about Potomac at times than Atlanta, which really surprised me. But that’s when I realized like OK, these girls, they made it. They’re up there, they’re moving up in the ranks of Bravolebrities, which is fun to watch and I felt like they both killed it.
Rajabi: I’ve never been a part of anything so incredible. It was the true fan experience where you got to be up close and personal with all of your Bravo heroes. It was like an inside look into this world that you get to watch from your home brought to life. It was truly the best experience of my life as a producer, and I’m sure for fans too. I will never forget this experience as long as I live.
Cavusoglu: It was such a happy event and, for me, the creative executive who helps create these shows, to see how much it resonates with the fans and what it means to the fans and their enthusiasm and the fandom towards our cast members and our shows was just so incredibly gratifying. To me that was the best part of the whole weekend is that it really made a lot of people very happy. It was so unbelievable, one, that we pulled it off, that we pulled it off without a hitch, really. It was such a lovefest.
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Relive highlights from the BravoCon 2019 panels, below.