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Real Housewives Who Come From Humble Beginnings

Bethenny Frankel, Mia Thornton and Erika Girardi
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Before they graced our screens with all their luxury and drama, the women featured on The Real Housewives often led normal lives. Prior to relishing in their fame and riches, some of our favourite OG and new housewives had humble beginnings. While they may come from complicated family dynamics and difficult circumstances, they’ve risen on top despite their challenges. Let’s take a look at some of the unique origin stories of Real Housewives who’ve beat their obstacles and come out on top.

Bethenny Frankel
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Bethenny Frankel became a self-made millionaire

Self-made millionaire Bethenny Frankel opened up about her difficult childhood and money struggles as a young woman during her time on Real Housewives of New York. In spite of her hardships, including living in an abusive household, the entrepreneur never stopped building herself up. Her success story began after she appeared on The Apprentice: Martha Stewart, and has catapulted over the last decade and a half thanks to her SkinnyGirl empire and multiple TV deals. She now gives back by founding and running disaster relief organization, BStrong.

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Mia Thornton
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Mia Thornton survived the foster care system

The Real Housewives of Potomac newbie has never shied away from being honest and vulnerable about her challenging upbringing, and growing up in the foster care system. Thornton has spoken frankly about her parent’s addiction problems and how it made her determined to create a better life for herself. Married for over a decade, she’s now a mother and a successful franchise operator of Joint Chiropractic Doctor Offices in four states.

Related: Interview: Heather Dubrow on coming back to ‘RHOC’ and being ambushed by Nicole James’ lawsuit.

Kenya Moore
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Kenya Moore overcame being abandoned by her mom

Atlanta’s Kenya Moore is most definitely a self-made woman. After being abandoned by her mother, Moore was raised by her paternal grandmother and never stopped hustling her way to the top. She won Miss America in 1993 and worked successfully as an actress, appearing in hit shows like Girlfriends. In her first season, Moore instantly became an iconic Real Housewife, one of few at the time who appeared without a husband in tow. Moore continues to see plenty of success on TV and with her haircare line, Kenya Moore Haircare (you hear the drumline too right?).

Related: The Real Housewives of Miami’: then and now.

Ashley Darby
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Ashley Darby bartended until she was discovered

Penthouse living wasn’t always the way for Ashley Darby. Growing up, the Potomac housewife was the eldest daughter of a single mother, and she worked several jobs to help her family. It was also revealed on the show that her father abandoned her as a baby and consistently refused reconciliation. While bartending, she was discovered by the Miss District of Columbia Pageant, which she won in 2011. She met her husband, Michael Darby, still working as a bartender and the two opened a restaurant together. Darby is now the mother of two boys, and the star of some of the Potomac franchise’s greatest moments.

See also: The wildest chefs on ‘Below Deck’ and its spinoffs over the years.

Erika Girardi
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Erika Girardi hustled in New York as a go-go dancer

This Beverly Hills housewife is no stranger to the spotlight, or difficult circumstances. Before she was performing as Erika Jayne, or being tied to incriminating headlines surrounding her disgraced ex-husband’s fraudulent activity, Erika was just a regular single mom working to make ends meet. Her thick skin comes from years of hustling after moving to New York on her own, working as a go-go dancer, and getting pregnant shortly after. She has detailed the day she gave birth in her memoir, saying she had to take the subway to the hospital because she couldn’t afford cab fare. Though her problems look different these days, Girardi’s money woes are still exclusive to the rich and wealthy.

Related: What we’ve learned about Erika Girardi from ‘RHOBH’ season 11.


Marlo Hampton
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Marlo Hampton earned her peach after hardship

She finally got her peach, but her road to starring in the Atlanta franchise was certainly full of turbulence. Viewers know Hampton as a fashion enthusiast, entrepreneur, and most recently the “maunty” of her nephews, who she has taken in as her own. These days Hampton has multiple successful business ventures (and a peach), but she worked her way there all on her own. Hampton’s mother was an addict, which resulted in her living in the foster care system for much of her youth. Despite her circumstances and some of the trouble she faced along the way, Hampton is definitely a self-made success story.

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Teresa Giudice
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Teresa Giudice hit rock bottom and rose again

This New Jersey mom of four faced the most difficult circumstances of her life after already appearing on The Real Housewives franchise. After filing for bankruptcy and being found guilty of wire fraud, Giudice went to jail for 15 months. Signing off on her ex-husbands shady ventures caused Teresa’s life to fall apart, but she built it all up again. It wasn’t until after she did jail-time that she became the independent woman she is today. She has since started her own wine line, hair care line, and written multiple books.

Related: A timeline of Teresa Giudice’s legal woes.

Nene Leakes
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Nene Leakes was a single mother before becoming the most gif-able Real Housewife

Nene Leakes may be the most famous housewife outside of the Bravo universe. After growing up in Brooklyn, Leakes lived as a single mother and worked as a dancer prior to meeting her longtime husband, Gregg Leakes. She went on to work successfully as an actress in multiple hit TV shows like Glee and The New Normal. Though she’s no longer an official housewife, she has proven she can hold her own with or without the Atlanta franchise. Plus, she has given us more gif-reactions than we deserve, and that alone is it’s own accomplishment.

Related: Interview: Cynthia Bailey on her ‘Girl’s Trip’ fallout with Kenya Moore.


Kyle Richards
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Kyle Richards was the family workhorse at a young age

One of three sisters featured on The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills, Kyle Richards has been working in showbiz since she was a child. That life, however, was not all glitz and glamour. Like her sisters, Kyle was put into the spotlight and became a family workhorse at a very young age. She faced many uphill battles with her family, including Kim’s documented addiction issues. Her life as a child actress with a single mother is loosely detailed in the show she executive produced, American Woman. She’s now living the jet-set lifestyle and doing the splits alongside husband, real estate mogul, Mauricio Umansky.

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Kandi Burress
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Kandi Burruss built an empire from the ground up

Arguably the most successful housewife, Kandi Burruss is the definition of a hustler. Though she was born into a normal life, she has been working as a musician since she was 15, forming the world famous band Xscape in high school. For many years, Burruss was a working single mom, but this never stopped her from reaching higher and higher. She’s created a wildly successful empire of business, including multiple restaurants, and sex toy line Bedroom Kandi. All the while, she’s also continued to work in the entertainment industry as an actress and songwriter. Oh, she also continues to run Kandi Koated Entertainment. The “No Scrubs” writer not only keeps winning, she has employed a great number of people, and consistently gives back to her community. It wasn’t until after the successes of her business and The Real Housewives of Atlanta that Burruss settled down into a marriage, already self-made.

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