It has been 16 years since Andy Cohen decided to take a risk on a new show idea at Bravo calling itself The Real Housewives of Orange County, but little did he know then the level of success and the ever-expanding Real Housewives franchise that would soon follow.
“We didn’t even know what we were doing in 2006,” Andy tells me during our new Zoom conversation from his New York home. “We just believed in the women and we believed that we could create a reality soap opera. Certainly didn’t see then the incredible effect it has had on television, pop culture, and my own life.”
Fast forward to today, the Emmy award winner has built a bonafide entertainment empire, as he continues on as executive producer for the multiple Real Housewives cities, which now include Beverly Hills, New York City, New Jersey, Atlanta, Potomac, Salt Lake City, Dallas, and Miami.
Since 2009, Andy has also been the host and executive producer of his own late night interactive talk show Watch What Happens Live with Andy Cohen, not to mention his two channels on SiriusXM, as well as him being a bestselling author.
With his ongoing experiences in business, I wondered how Andy might define what makes an effective businessperson in 2022.
“Someone who can build a team, communicate well, figure out what their goals are and how to manifest them. Know what their brand is and someone who can adapt – moving quickly as things happen.”
When I followed up by asking Andy if he has noticed himself having to adapt as both his career and the world evolve, Andy responds with his Real Housewives franchise on the mind, “Constantly. We’re thrown curve balls left and right with our talent, sometimes. Things happen very quickly and fans are very quick to react to things. You have to pivot in those ways. You have to pivot when a show is not working and figure out how to fix it.”
Recently, the Bravo team went international with The Real Housewives, by introducing the world to The Real Housewives of Dubai. Following the extravagant lives of a new group of ladies living in the United Arab Emirates city, Andy says of audience feedback so far, “It has been pretty good, actually. People seem to be really enjoying the show. Certainly the way it’s produced, I think it’s emblematic of what the next wave of the Housewives will look like and what it can look like and it feels modern and refresh and interesting and exciting.”
As Andy’s business life continues to see more and more growth, so has his life at home. In February 2020, Andy became a father, welcoming his son Ben into the world – and just this past April, his daughter Lucy arrived, both through a surrogate. When I asked Andy how fatherhood has been going for him so far, he appropriately responded like a parent by yawning when saying, “It’s exhausting, but it’s good. It’s really nice. It’s going to be great.”
With his many dedicated responsibilities these days, both personally and professionally, I wondered how Andy is able to make the time for everything going on in his world.
“I prioritize. I just look at what I have to do. I look at what my deadlines are. This morning, I got up, I took my daughter to the doctor, I came home, I screened an episode of Dubai. I took a shower, I taped an episode of Watch What Happens Live, I just took a 10-minute nap. So, on and on and on – I pivot every day.”
Currently in its 19th season, Watch What Happens Live showcases Andy inviting Bravo stars, other celebrities, and politicians alike to speak openly with him on a variety of topics, often including the public through fan questions. So between the many seasons of The Real Housewives and Watch What Happens Live, what exactly keeps Andy motivated to want to keep going?
“There are just different things that energize me and as [The Real Housewives] shows find their groove, I think Ultimate Girls Trip and Beverly Hills are so hot right now and Atlanta and Dubai, so that gives me the energy to go in there and do Watch What Happens Live and create moments. We’ve got BravoCon coming up later this year and we just make teeny little tweaks to our format all the time that excite me. We just added a ‘shotski’ siren to Watch What Happens Live to Wednesday nights and it’s fun. We’re just adding to the cocktail that is our show.”
During a time where other late night hosts are taking a moment during their shows to express their concerns about about issues affecting our country and our world right now, I was curious how Andy finds balance in leading with his popular entertainment format, yet utilizing his elevated platform to speak out on topics that he feels are necessary to address.
“I think when it’s something that’s super important to me, then I definitely speak up. I’m the only gay talk show host in late night, so for me, that’s something that I take seriously and when our rights are under attack, I definitely speak out and I’m grateful to have the platform at Bravo. Bravo has never once told me that I cannot say something or I need to tone it down, so I’m really grateful.”
During our conversation, I chose to bring up with Andy the recent overturning of Roe v. Wade by the U.S. Supreme Court and asked him if he believes that we as a nation should be concerned about that decision.
“I do think we should be very concerned,” Andy continues. “Justice Thomas put in his judgment the other day that we should be looking at gay rights, gay marriage, and contraception – and given that Justice Kavanaugh and Amy Coney Barrett clearly lied under oath about their feelings about Roe v. Wade, I think anything is up for discussion. I think these are lunatics, frankly. They don’t honor the fact that church and state are separate – that was clear in their ruling, so I think we’re just getting started to look at the damage that this Supreme Court is going to do to all of us.”
Andy goes on to encourage the public to “be smart and vote” in the upcoming midterm elections as the best plan of action to make their voices heard in protecting their rights.
As I began to conclude my conversation with Andy, I wondered if there are any new projects or other industries that he looks to have a hand in next. “Not really. I’m really focused on Watch What Happens Live. I’ve got 11 shows on the air right now that I’m working on, I have two radio channels at Sirius, I’m writing a book that hasn’t yet been announced. I’m good.”
As we wrapped up, I asked Andy what professional advice he might have for other business-minded individuals who believe they have a great idea but simply do not know how to get it off the ground.
“I would say always follow your passion and just don’t give up,” Andy continues. “If you think it’s a great idea, don’t give up. I also think you really need to be critical on yourself and figure out Is it a good idea? Is it something totally original? I think there are a lot of people who think you should do a reality show on X, Y, or Z, and a lot of times, it’s either something that has been thought of or it’s just not a good idea. So, I think that people need to be self-critical, but if they really believe in it, then they should go for it.”