The Real Housewives of Auckland cast under 'controlling' image agreement

By Gemma Hartley

The cast of The Real Housewives of Auckland are not allowed to alter their appearance - including the look of their faces, hair colour and weight - without the written permission of the show's producer, it has been revealed.

The six-strong line-up was revealed this week and boasts two former models, a socialite, two businesswomen and a broadcaster who have agreed to let the nation into their high-society lifestyles.

They will each be paid $15,000 for their roles in the show, due to screen in August on the new MediaWorks channel Bravo. It is being produced by Matchbox Pictures.

One of the clauses in a contract signed by the cast, which has been obtained by the Herald on Sunday, states they will not alter their "physical appearance in any material manner (eg, hair length, style or colour, facial characteristics, weight, etc)" during the period they are contracted to the show without the pre-approval of producers.

Any such changes would be deemed a "material breach" of the contract.

The clause was last night criticised as "controlling" by a women's health advocate. A leading expert in TV and film branded the document "controversial" and questioned the "reality" of the upcoming show.

"The producers of the programme obviously want to take control of their products," said Dr Brett Nicholls, senior lecturer in media, film and communication at the University of Otago.

"What's interesting is the weight clause. Controversial for sure, it isn't promoting a healthy image to its female audience.

"Reality TV has always premised around the idea that you have an individual behaving like themselves.

"It is interesting that [with] the degree of control the producers want to exercise over these people - how much they are being themselves is questionable."

Auckland Women's Health Council co-ordinator Lynda Williams said people "shouldn't be signing contracts that are that controlling".

"I think the weight thing is wrong and misleading, it gives the wrong impression to viewers and women."

The show's publicity team would not comment yesterday.

The Real Housewives franchise was launched in America in 2006, following the exploits of well-to-do women in Orange County and many of its stars have gone on to become household names, demanding up to $1 million plus bonuses for featuring in the show.

The Kiwi version's cast includes Gilda Kirkpatrick, who runs advertising consultancy Rascals; her Paritai Drive neighbour, former journalist and TV host Louise Wallace; stylist and former model Angela Stone; Champagne importer Anne Batley-Burton; author, businesswoman and former model Julia Sloane, and former model Michelle Blanchard.

Stone last night told the Herald on Sunday she was "unable to comment" because of a confidentiality agreement with the producers. Other members of the cast could not be contacted.

- Herald on Sunday

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