Clubhouse isn’t just for users to talk about NTFs or “shoot their shot” at potential mates. The social audio app has become a space where entertainment fandoms thrive.
One of the fastest-growing groups on Clubhouse is Club Bravo, which, as the name suggests, is focused on the cable network that airs “The Real Housewives,” “Below Deck” and “Top Chef” franchises, among others.
Club Bravo celebrates its 3-month anniversary today. It boasts 9,000+ followers and such impressive programming that Clubhouse executives have taken notice. In the last four weeks, Club Bravo has hosted nearly 94,000 listeners and a total listen time of over 14,000 hours.
“Speaking for Clubhouse and as a proud member of Bravo fandom, we have been astonished by the accelerating growth of this community,” Clubhouse’s Head of Global Marketing Maya Watson told TheWrap via statement. “Clubhouse is the place where many of the most passionate fans go to obsess, discuss, and connect.”
It was that shared obsession over Bravo shows that led Dave Quinn and James “Jim” Nickerson to launch Club Bravo back in March 2021. What so remarkable is that Quinn — an entertainment journalist who has previously covered “The Real Housewives” for publications like People and Entertainment Weekly — has never actually met Nickerson, a tech startup PR specialist.
“Dave and I are one of the thousands of great Clubhouse bromances that happened over the pandemic,” Nickerson told TheWrap’s Lawrence Yee during a Zoom call with Quinn. Nickerson recalled he first “met” Quinn in a Clubhouse room that would eventually become Club Bravo’s flagship show, “The Bravo State of the Union.”
“Dave and I talked and we found out we had other things in common,” Nickerson recalled. “And I was a superfan. And the next thing you know, we were talking about, ‘What is this? What can it be?’”
As the two talked, they agreed there was enough content AND followers to create a club wholly dedicated to Bravo. While there are other entertainment IPs that have strong followings on Clubhouse — Marvel and “RuPaul’s Drag Race” to name two — they only had one or two shows airing per week. Bravo airs new shows nightly. So Quinn and Nickerson developed a programming slate that mirrored Bravo’s slate.
They started out simply. There was a daily news show, the “Bravo News Brief,” hosted by Quinn. And of course, next-day recap rooms for Bravo’s popular primetime shows. Each week would culminate with “The Bravo State of the Union,” led Quinn, Nickerson and a slew of top Bravo influencers and content creators.
It was unifying these various top influencers and content creators that helped drive Club Bravo’s growth.
“‘I started to realize that there was much more than just me,” Quinn explained. “Of course, there’s so many incredible people who run podcasts and Instagram pages every single day about Bravo. Oftentimes, these are people who have full-time jobs outside of the Bravo universe; they’re dental assistants, or they work in insurance or whatever, they have desk jobs, and they just love Bravo’s so much. So I started reaching out to them on Instagram, some who I knew others who I didn’t and said to them, ‘Please come join our show on Clubhouse and just talk with me. And that’s what we started building State of the Union.”
One of those influencers Kate Casey, host of “Reality Life with Kate Casey” one the highest-rated podcasts on iTunes and devoted to unscripted television. Like Quinn, Casey had established relationships with many of the network’s stars, or “Bravolebrities,” through her years of interviewing.
Through their connections, they were able to invite network talent, aka Bravolebrities, to speak in Club Bravo. Among them were current housewives Jennifer Aydin (“New Jersey”), Braunwyn Wyndham Burke (“Orange County”) and Dr. Tiffany Moon (“Dallas”). But audiences also wanted to hear from Bravolebrities past, people who left the reality TV spotlight.
Club Bravo guests included Mary Amons, who spilled on the one-and-done “Real Housewives of D.C.” Her former castmates included Tareq and Michaele Salahi, better known as the White House dinner party crashers. Jill Zarin, one of the original “Real Housewives of New York,” drew hundreds of listeners. They regaled the Club Bravo audiences with stories about their time on Bravo and provided updates on their lives. And listeners lapped it up.
One former “Bravolebrity,” Dr. Monica O’Neal, actually became a Club Bravo moderator herself. Dr. Monica, as she is popularly known, is a licensed clinical psychologist and one of two Black castmembers on “Camp Getaway.” O’Neal reached out to Quinn asking if she could host a room that peeked behind the curtain and broke the fourth wall by exploiting the psychology behind what fans were watching.
Thus, “The Psychology of Bravo,” an original Club Bravo room, was born. O’Neal first guest was Braunwyn Wyndham Burke, O’Neal described Wyndham Burke as being “powerfully vulnerably and reflective” in a way that she could be in her on-camera confessionals (whether due to length or editing) or other social media platforms.
“My room is how it really is rooted in one of the most basic principles in psychology – that people want/need to feel heard, seen, and known beyond their edits,” O’Neal explained to TheWrap. Since then, she’s hosted rooms dissecting the Bravo’s most notorious love triangles (including “Summer House’s” Hannah/Luke/Ciara and “Atlanta’s” Porscha/Simon/Fallyn) and harmful tropes of Black women on reality television (more on that later).
“I think what attracts talent and production to this app is the ability to have thoughtful conversations with their audience,” Casey, a veteran podcaster turned Club Bravo co-admin, added. “People are unmoved by a post in a post-COVID world, they want to hear someone’s personal story.”
Other original rooms that have joined the Club Bravo lineup include “The Bravo Detective Agency” (hosted by Les Kurkendaal-Barrett and Jessica Reilly) — a show that deep-dives into Bravolebrities’ personal or financial pasts, and “State Your Case” (hosted by Jared Alexander and Matthew Boyd) – where listeners can go on stage defend their controversial fandoms.
Expanding the Club Bravo moderator poo,l aka the “mod squad,” was necessary from both a resource and cultural perspective. Quinn and Nickerson quickly realized that despite their enthusiasm, it was simply too many rooms to handle. They also recognized that as two cis, white gay men, they needed more diverse voices. (Andy Cohen, the host of Bravo’s “official” talk show “Watch What Happens Live” and its popular reunion shows is a cis, white gay man.)
They recruited women and people of color like Casey and O’Neal to add diverse voices and expand the conversation.
“Now we have well over 20 moderators,” Quinn explained. “We have a whole training session for them, a document getting them up to speed of our priorities, how we like to run our rooms leading with listening and conversation and kindness. And I’m really proud, I’m really proud because they’re so diverse in their opinions. They’re so diverse in their personalities and their ethnicities, and it’s just become a very great representation of the Bravo fandom.”
Leading by listening is what all Club Bravo moderators strive for. They’re taught to identify and weed out trolls (by doublechecking listeners’ social media profiles and Clubhouse bios before bringing them onto the stage to talk) and encourage discourse and equal time. The club rules explicitly ban discriminatory language and hate speech, and mods are quick to act if there when speakers violate the rules.
That’s not to say there aren’t intense, even heated conversations on Club Bravo. As the television network seeks to diversify its traditionally white casts — with mixed results — viewers have very strong opinions. And they express those opinions on Club Bravo. The discussions have pivoted from pop culture to culture.
Several recent conversations surrounded Eboni K. Williams, the first and only Black cast member on “The Real Housewives of New York City.” One of Williams’ white castmates, Luann de Lesseps, called her “angry” during a cast trip and kicked her out of her house. Another white castmate, Heather Thomson, tried to defuse the situation by speaking with the other women, when Williams should’ve been the one to speak for herself.
De Lesseps’ and Thomson’s actions — and the emotional labor and trauma of reliving them — led Williams to take a two-week ban from social media. She broke that ban to talk about the episodes with Casey on Club Bravo. What was scheduled to be a 30-minute chat ended up lasting over an hour. Williams was able to speak her truth and several Black Club Bravo listeners were brought on stage to share their experiences with micro-aggressions and overt racism. (Bravo declined to comment for this feature.)
The next day on “The Psychology of Bravo,” O’Neal, who is Black, led a discussion on the four stereotypical tropes of Black Women and their impact on reality TV and in real life.
“The impact of the conversation in my room showed up in the next post-show recap room.” O’Neal explained. “People were talking about how the staid responses to conflict from the Housewives of color might actually be related to fear of being misunderstood/seen through the lens of racial stereotypes, like that of the ‘Angry Black Woman.’ To me, that felt like a moment where I could say, ‘Hell yeah! This is activating a real impact,’ and feel proud.”
It’s that empowerment and amplification of diverse voices that Quinn and Nickerson see as one of Club Bravo’s core missions.
“I certainly know what it’s like to be a part of a marginalized group,” Quinn explained. “I think Jim does as well as, as out an open gay men. I hate to think that anyone would ever feel excluded or unwanted or unloved, and my mission in life is to make everybody feel equal and cared about. But the racial uprising that happened amidst the Black Lives Matter movement was eye-opening for all of us. And I think it reminded us that there’s a big difference between being not racist to being anti-racist. And I’ve really kind of understood that in my own life, and wanting to bring that sort of energy to these conversations, because they’re happening anyway, people want to talk about them. So let’s have the real conversation, let’s really talk about some of these issues, these microaggressions, let’s work through our pain about them. We’ve had amazing talks in the space And as allies, I think it’s important for us to champion those voices, to stand up for those rights. And to allow that conversation to continue as much as we can.”
Allowing that conversation to continue often means not speaking at all and allowing traditionally marginalized voices to share.
“Dave and I kind of we don’t have a space on the couch,” Nickerson echoed. “We give the space to other people to talk about it. And we’re happy to sit in the audience. And listen, it’s the best place we can be.”
Even the best-run clubs still have room for growth.
“My experience of Dave, Jim, and Kate is that they are committed to our mission and personally try show up as allies at every step of the way,” O’Neal explained. “However, I think it’s going to take some practice for being able to hold to this mission in the most uncomfortable moments. To this point, I’ve only experienced everybody is trying their best with it. I don’t have the expectation that everyone’s going to get it right out of the gates, but I am comforted by the fact that everyone is trying.”
“I’ve also been blown away by the bravery and vulnerability of all of the people of color that have come into my room to speak honestly about their experience and to take the time to help people learn. I only wish that we would see the same type of bravery and commitment to these issues reflected on the Bravo shows of which we discuss.” she added. “It’s my secret hope that some of the producers and editors writers and executives within Bravo and other networks actually drop in to my room from time to time to actually hear the emotional psychological experiences people are having watching the shows and how important it is to invest in the emotional narrative of people of color.”
So what’s next for Club Bravo? Quinn and Nickerson did NOT apply for Clubhouse’s inaugural Creator First accelerator that provides funding and equipment for creators, but confirm they recently had conversations with the app creatives, who were supportive of their efforts. They (and their moderators) continue to work unpaid, driven by their love for Bravo.
To learn more about Club Bravo’s astonishing rise, including one room about Porsha Williams’s surprise engagement to her “Real Housewives of Atlanta” costar’s ex-husband that drew 10,000 listeners over the course of six hours, check out the full video above.