Glitz, glam and deceit: these ladies are all showstoppers in one way or another
Dorothy was right: there’s no place like home. This adage from The Wizard of Oz surely extends to Real Housewives franchises, too, and while there will always be purists asserting the supremacy and authenticity of Bravo – the network which launched the show – I am convinced that ITVBe have done a fine job with their UK spin-off series (or, at least, this one). After 175 episodes of quintessentially British drama, the yearning to get out my imaginary Coutts Card and book a first class ticket to Wilmslow has never been greater.
A new series is reportedly in the works, but what to do in the meantime? It may be a while before I can marry rich enough to purchase the £7m Warford Hall, so a thorough sociological ranking of all 21 main cast members – from queen bee to evil incarnate – is my attempt at a compromise. General vibes, entertainment value, charisma and likeability are all carefully and properly considered, but only on-screen!
21. Magali Gorre
When I say it’s a tragedy that Magali left after only two seasons, I mean it. Sometimes I still think about entering a 10 day mourning period because I miss her that much. The way she said “Sheshire” instead of Cheshire, repeatedly called people “trash trash trash”, and took a trip to Swansea on air? It’s perfect. Magali is also one of a handful of cast members who remained fearless of Dawn Ward – which, frankly, takes guts – and while she may be remembered as the most violent and aggressive housewife, in her own words, she is not Gandhi. Maybe the only way I can pay homage to Queen Magali is to make her opening line my new bio: “if you cross me, you better don’t cross me. Don’t mess with Magali”.
20. Sheena Lynch
Always the voice of reason, everyone needs a Sheena in their friendship group. She has the ultimate tool of diplomacy, a South London accent, and also once called a guest housewife with (dyed) orange hair a “ginger twat”.
19. Rachel Lugo
What’s the X Factor voiceover dude Peter Dickson up to these days? “RACHEL ADEDEJI” remains iconic, but I raise you the potential of: “RACHEL LUUUUGOOOO”. Anyway, with five thriving kids I call her mother, and you should too. Rachel has such a penchant for fairness she will call out her besties when required, so put her in the Supreme Court already. She has also remained a feminist icon throughout her 11 consecutive seasons – despite being treated appallingly by some of the men on the show – because one thing she will not stand for is women putting other women down, and too right!
18. Ampika Pickston
Ampika is another one who left too early. Easily the housewife with the sharpest judgement of character, she had the evil Nick and Royston sussed out from the beginning, and we too should be telling rude old men to go home and watch countryfile. She’s also idiosyncratic, being the most sparkly dresser and easily spending the most money on-screen, yet in her spare time she will go fishing and crabbing, or volunteer at the local animal sanctuary – what a well-rounded queen! The fact that her calling Leanne a hoover (with whooshing noise and suction motion to boot) is not already a ubiquitous GIF attests to just how underestimated and underappreciated a housewife she is.
17. Natasha Hamilton
While only joining the Real Housewives of Cheshire last season, as a member of Atomic Kitten Natasha was only ever going to bring joy to the show. Long may it continue!
16. Perla Navia
Perla did give me the heebie jeebies when I first started watching the show – I don’t want to kink shame but her bondage room is weird. Once I put my prejudice(?) aside, though, I came to realise that she’s pretty harmless. Gets bonus points for calling Dawn (or was it Seema?) a “BAY-ETCH” with an “epidemic mouth” during a reunion.
15. Lystra Adams
Well Lystra certainly made an entrance: all guns blazing, she was the QUEEN of Cheshire and nobody was going to put her down (except for Hanna, on day one). Nonetheless, after coming out and introducing the show to her girlfriend, she has not only embraced LGBTQ+ representation, but found a new role as the calm and collected peacemaker within the group. Still, her continuing friendship with vile sycophants Nick and Royston means I remain slightly suspicious of her.
14. Katie Alex
Bit of a charisma vacuum, and only lasted one season anyway.
13. Lauren Simon
Lauren is the constant among chaos, being the only OG housewife to still appear as a main cast member (after a two season break), and she becomes a somewhat soothing presence as a result. No matter the drama with Lauren, it is nearly always low stakes, often involving her throwing things at people’s birthdays and weddings, or offending entire towns, but remember that she never means to be rude, she just is. Interestingly, Lauren actually becomes more pleasant as the show continues: gone are the days of her telling Dawn that she shouldn’t freeze her eggs because it’s like frozen pizza. Has she become a better person, or has she just ditched her husband?
12. Tanya Bardsley
Tanya’s relatively high placement on this list is mostly due to her falling over all the time – I feel SEEN. Klutz representation aside, however, Tanya makes for perfect reality TV, by nearly always being embroiled in drama, while still remaining likeable and charismatic (unless she’s fighting Ampika, to whom she was vile). Nonetheless, Tanya (as well as Leanne) earned my respect for not sending her kids to private school, and being so honest and open about her mental health. She also once claimed the reason Stacey’s “trumps are so bad” is because “she’s full of shit”, and it’s about time I force-fed my enemies some chickpeas so I can say the same to them.
11. Leanne Brown
Poor Leanne. Throughout her six seasons she seems to have a horrendous time, first running around as Dawn’s attack dog, before eventually fighting Dawn herself in court, reportedly over a missing £500,000. She seems on the verge of a breakdown in her final season, and it’s genuinely quite upsetting to watch someone deteriorate like that on screen.
10. Hanna Kinsella
I change my mind about her every few minutes. Is she just boring or is she a snob? Is she genuinely more mature than the other girls – just misunderstood – or is her near constant involvement in squabbles a sign that there is more than meets the eye? I don’t know.
9. Deborah Davies
Debbie’s introduction to the show, at least for me, marked the start of its decline. She might not even have been the problem, but recruiting a ghost-hunting/doll-collecting clairvoyant stinks of exuding quirkiness just for the sake of it, in lieu of bringing on an assuredly big character. To be fair to Debbie, though, she was replacing Dawn – a tough gig for anyone – and proved to be a bit of a wacko anyway, refusing to partake in a dinner party on a balcony (because she wouldn’t go down two stairs), and offending the whole of Scotland by retching up haggis on a girls’ trip to Edinburgh.
8. Ester Dohnalova
Wow, where to start with this one. Whether it’s gyrating on Leanne Brown’s husband during a child’s christening, holding a memorial service for a dog that died eleven (eleven!) years ago, or calling the limbo “bingo wings”, time and time again Ester proves she is genuinely barking. The problem with her, though, is that she can also be horrible – saying (newly divorced) Lauren can’t make a man happy, comparing Ampika’s salon to a bad curry house, or taking pictures with Rachel’s husband in a wedding garter. She’s “Jekyll and Hyde” (Tanya’s words), she’s endearing, she’s evil, but also please bring her back, because she’s guaranteed mayhem.
7. Nermina Pieters-Mekic
Claudia Winkleman watch out, a new fringe is on the loose! Anyway, the concept of Nermina is far better than the reality: you remember all her eccentricities, but then you actually watch the show and she’s annoying and gets offended at everything. Having said that, for someone who was repeatedly criticised on screen for being boring, Nermina is the only housewife to date to have thrown a drink on another cast member (at a child’s christening, no less). Her song – she has a music career you see – is also so bad that even other housewives take the piss out of it (the entire chorus seems to revolve around her going “I just wanna ooh nah nah ooh nah nah”). Still, she apparently has a law degree, so the next time my tutor asks me what I want to do once I graduate, I can say I want to be like Nermina.
6. Seema Malhotra
I’m sorry I just don’t like her. I don’t like most of her clothes either, and practically the entire cast are wearing them in the later seasons. What frustrates me, though, is someone with that much soft power choosing such awful friends: all of her besties either appear in the top five below, or would deserve to if they were a regular cast member (Paige I hope you are reading this). At the end of the day Seema is fundamentally poor television – 90% of the time she is boring, and the 10% of the time that she isn’t is due to her being unpleasant. 14 consecutive seasons of snobbery is 14 too many for me.
5. Stacey Forsey
We all know a Stacey, and we do not stan. She can project her inner Emily Howard as much as she likes, but she is no lady to me. Every incident she finds herself in feels so ridiculous: leaving a voicemail to Ester where announces that she is going to war, calling Leanne a “social friend” despite going to her wedding, or claiming it’s fine that her tits are out (but not Tanya’s) because it’s done “in an elegant way”. Stacey is everything the class system thrives upon: a put on accent, and a false claim to self-sufficiency (she has a personal chef, a housekeeper and even a lift in her house, but she “does everything herself anyway” – come on!). But if being classy means serving your (vegetarian!) guests ham and courgettes for lunch, then I want out.
4. Misse Beqiri
The two seasons we had with Misse feel like a fever dream. How can someone be so dull and so vile at the same time? Yet another case study of the banality of evil. I was done with Misse when she referred to herself as a supermodel (who does that!), but then she spent the rest of her first moments on air slagging off the Manchester accent, before claiming other WAGs were scared she was going to run off with their husbands. Still, mean Misse (season 3) made for better television than melancholy Misse (season 4), who organised a girls’ trip to Barcelona where everyone cried the whole time, before eventually replacing Leanne as Dawn’s lapdog.
3. Leilani Dowding
We only had one season of Leilani, and thank goodness. She was so personally degrading to other housewives, calling guest Christine a “dairy cow” in reference to the size of her breasts, and even admitted to blaming Perla for crashing Hanna’s wedding because she was better friends with the person actually responsible. I almost respect the shamelessness of it.
2. Nicole Sealey
I cannot believe she is a real person; no one human being has killed so many vibes in such a short space of time. It’s always miseryfest with Nicole – multiple housewives have described her face as a “slapped arse” – but this means she will never be as effective a villain as Dawn. There is no charm or comedy with Nicole, just tantrums and shit-stirring.
1. Dawn Ward
It’s Dawn Ward’s world and we’re all just living in it. Seriously, she was only ever going to be at the top or the bottom of this list, because she IS Cheshire. It’s genuinely remarkable to watch her create chaos, pitting people against each other by riling them up and egging them on, before sitting back and letting it all unfold. She was manipulator-in-chief, her strategies being as obvious to onlookers as they were stupefying to those in the thick of it. I am convinced that most of the housewives who voluntarily left the show just could not deal with her any more – Magali, Ampika, Leanne, even Leilani – while at least four others – Leanne, Tanya, Ester, Rachel – were nastier than they would have been had they not fallen for Dawn’s influence. But even though it is plausible that she will be running a death squad soon, I do miss her. The inevitable walking out of dinner parties, the supposed hatred of phonies (Holden Caulfield would be proud), the parties at Warford Hall (including the one Pride event I will never attend) – they say people make Glasgow but Dawn made the Real Housewives of Cheshire tick. The Wards may never quite be the Kardashians, but they certainly made their mark.