My name is Becky and I’m a Bravoholic. This means I keep watching every Real Housewives show even after it stops giving me that good TV buzz. Even after I have decided that every cast member in any given city is a morally reprehensible fame whore, an idiot or a pretentious poser, I still can’t stop. Unlike any of my past addictions, sometimes my die hard TV habit rewards me with a new kind of high if I hang in there long enough. This hit comes in the form of a character so ridiculous and messed up that they breathe life back into a show and remind me why I got hooked in the first place. Tinsley Mortimer is exactly the shot in the arm Real Housewives of New York City needed this season.
In all my years of advanced Real Housewives studies, I have seen some great sloppy drunks, addicts and enablers. Some notable examples of alcohol-fueled bad behavior include multiple counts of wig-pulling in Atlanta, a boozy, life-threatening ATV accident in the OC and, of course, all the addiction and family dysfunction in Beverly Hills courtesy of Kim and Kyle Richards. But Tinsley Mortimer is special. She’s truly got it all. And by that I mean she comes from a rich family and has not only a scandalous past and criminal record but also a head full of crazy. This is all wrapped up in a designer package and sealed with the charming lack of self-awareness that makes her really fun to watch.
Tinsley comes from family money, with both parents being descendants of the Founding Fathers (James Madison on her dad’s side and Thomas Jefferson on her mom’s). Her dad was a very wealthy real estate investor until he lost it all and drank himself to death in 2015. Tinsley eloped with her high school sweetheart and fellow blue blood and Standard Oil heir, Topper Mortimer, when they were 18. The two later remarried in a more socially acceptable ceremony and quickly became a NYC “it” couple. Tinsley was a socialite, a party girl and one of the most photographed women in the City during the early 2000s.
Even though Tinsley is most famous for looking pretty in pictures and attending all the right parties, she’s not without legitimate achievements. She graduated from The Lawrenceville School, a prestigious boarding school in New Jerse,y and earned a BA in Art History from Columbia, where she was a member of a super exclusive, not-so-secret society called St. Anthony Hall. Tinsley has dabbled in event planning and even worked at Vogue before becoming a full-time socialite. She was a beauty ambassador for Dior, designed a handbag line that was big in Japan and also had a short-lived clothing collection. Also, RHONY isn’t her first foray into reality TV as she had a starring role on the cheesy CW reality show High Society, which only ran for eight episodes in 2010. Of course, I watched every single one. Because, addict.
Tinsley and Topper’s divorce in 2009 was the beginning of her downward spiral. Tinsley moved to Palm Beach, Florida, and was linked romantically with both a German prince and American Idol star Constantine Maroulis. In 2012, she hooked up with billionaire Alexander “Nico” Fanjul, who is the heir to his family’s sugar empire. The relationship was volatile and Nico was reportedly abusive; the couple’s fights resulted in one arrest, four police reports and a written warning from the Palm Beach Police Department.
The relationship finally blew up for good in April of 2016, when Tinsley reportedly broke in to retrieve some of her belongings from Nico’s house and he called the cops. Her mugshot was all over the press and Tinsley’s fall from grace was complete. In the wake of her breakup and public embarrassment, she moved back to NYC and agreed to become a Real Housewife. Lucky for us!
This season on RHONY, we have watched Tinsley struggle—not in an obvious way a la Kim Richards, but in a more subdued fashion. She’s living with cast mate Sonja Morgan, ex-wife of John Morgan (as in JP Morgan Chase Bank) in a demented Grey Gardens-meets-transitional-housing situation. She’s basically Sonja’s surrogate daughter and doormat, but occasionally exhibits tiny flashes of backbone. Oh, and then there’s the drinking. She drinks in pretty much every episode. She even recently admitted on camera that she is so haunted by her past that she has to drink every night to fall asleep. Sounds like she needs therapy, right? Well, she’s doing that on camera, too. Her therapist recently recommended she start taking anti-depressants (duh), but apparently failed to emphasize the importance of not drinking while taking the medication.
Tinsley clearly has a long road to emotional health and stability. We know from watching other Bravo stars struggle that money and fame is no substitute for recovery. I’m no shrink but she seems to dealing with the fallout of a physically and emotionally abusive relationship and PTSD symptoms. It’s hard to tell if her substance abuse is an attempt to self-medicate or if it was there all along. It’s also a puzzle what she’s more addicted to—fame, the attention of wealthy men or alcohol. What I find interesting about her is that she has a level of intelligence that most of my favorite reality TV drunks lack. It’s like she knows exactly what she’s doing wrong in life, but she can’t help herself. And really, isn’t that the very definition of addiction? I’m hopeful that Tinsley can pull herself together because she’s got great potential and seems to be already taking steps in the right direction. Still, the truth is that I’ll be watching whether she gets better or not. Addiction, after all, is a heartless master.
Photo courtesy of Bravo