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The cast of 'The Real Housewives of Dubai' preview the upcoming season and address criticism

TODAY sat down with the cast of the "Real Housewives of Dubai," the franchise's first-ever international venture.
The Real Housewives of Dubai - Season 1
The cast of "The Real Housewives of Dubai." Pictured: (l-r) Dr. Sara Al Madani, Caroline Brooks, Caroline Stanbury, Chanel Ayan, Lesa Milan, Nina Ali -- (Photo by: Chris Haston/Bravo)Chris Haston / Bravo

The inaugural season of Bravo’s “The Real Housewives of Dubai” is quickly approaching, promising glamour, drama — and the franchise’s first international venture. The show is filmed in Dubai, the largest city in the United Arab Emirates, known for its multicultural population and extravagance. 

Premiering Wednesday, June 1 at 9 p.m. ET on Bravo, “The Real Housewives of Dubai” stars Nina Ali, Chanel Ayan, Caroline Brooks, Dr. Sara Al Madani, Lesa Milan and Caroline Stanbury (formerly of the Bravo show “Ladies of London”).

Ahead of the premiere, TODAY sat down with the cast ahead of the upcoming premiere to discuss all that the season has to offer and, and what (and who) to look out for during the show’s episodes. 

The cast introduces six new housewives

The cast five new women to the Bravo pantheon — and one familiar face. Ali said, “We’re six very unique, very different women living our own lives. We’re all successful in our own sense.”

For Milan, who said she has been a "Housewives" fan for “literally forever,” joining the Bravo-verse has been a positive experience. Milan said, “I’m really happy. I have no regrets. And so far, it’s been amazing.”

Nina Ali

Born in Lebanon and raised in Austin, Texas, Nina Ali is a businesswoman, entrepreneur and mother of three. In 2011, Ali moved to Dubai with her husband, where she co-founded her premium fruit cake business and started a family.

The Real Housewives of Dubai - Season 1
Nina AliChris Haston / Bravo

Chanel Ayan

Hailing from Kenya and tracing her roots to Somalia and Ethiopia, Chanel Ayan is a supermodel, businesswoman and mother. Known for her over-the-top fashion and beauty style, Ayan became a fashion icon after moving to Dubai with her husband of 22 years. Today, Ayan is balancing the development of an empowering makeup and skincare line, Ayan Beauty, with modeling, motherhood and her friend group’s never-ending drama. 

The Real Housewives of Dubai - Season 1
Chanel AyanChris Haston / Bravo

Caroline Brooks

Caroline Brooks is a proud first-generation American and Afro-Latina businesswoman and mother. In 2010, Brooks moved with her now ex-husband from Massachusetts to Dubai and worked for her husband’s businesses. After they separated, Brooks became one of the first female real estate directors in the area. Recently, she launched the Glass House Salon and Spa, a luxury salon that caters to women of all colors, hair textures and skin types. 

The Real Housewives of Dubai - Season 1
Caroline BrooksChris Haston / Bravo

Dr. Sara Al Madani

An Emirati local, Dr. Sara Al Madani is a multi-award-winning serial entrepreneur. After starting her first business at 15, she’s become a prolific public speaker, delivering more than 200 keynote speeches focused on inspiring young women to be self-confident and pursue their career goals. She is a single mom to two children.

The Real Housewives of Dubai - Season 1
Dr. Sara Al MedaniChris Haston / Bravo

Lesa Milan

Hailing from Jamaica, Lesa “Milan” Hall is a fashion designer, entrepreneur and mother. She is the founder and chief designer of luxury maternity fashion brand Mina Roe, and has three children.

The Real Housewives of Dubai - Season 1
Lesa MilanChris Haston / Bravo

Caroline Stanbury

Born and raised in London, Caroline Stanbury is an entrepreneur, podcast host, philanthropist, and mother of three who moved to Dubai with her husband and family after the conclusion of Bravo’s "Ladies of London." Since cameras last saw Stanbury, her life has changed quite a bit. She divorced Cem Habib in 2019, and married former Real Madrid soccer player Sergio Carallo in 2021. As the host of the popular “Divorced Not Dead” podcast, Stanbury sets out to prove that evolution is possible at any age.

The Real Housewives of Dubai - Season 1
Caroline StanburyChris Haston / Bravo

Addressing criticism, the cast wants to challenge misconceptions about Dubai 

The show’s announcement was met with criticism from both outside and inside Dubai. Emirati commentator Majid Alamry said the trailer didn’t reflect reality, prompting self-identifying Dubai housewives to weigh in with their perspectives.

Meanwhile, Bravo fans questioned why the franchise decided to locate a show in a conservative country where homosexuality is criminalized. Ahead of the premiere, 12 human rights groups sent an open letter to Bravo and NBC (of which TODAY is a part), citing the UAE’s “legalized homophobia” and “mass violence against women.”    

Speaking to TODAY, the cast addressed the backlash to the show. For Brooks, the show serves as a way to address the criticism head-on. 

“Dubai is very advanced, very modern, but there are still people who are very, very religious, and they may not understand fully what the show is about. So they need to just watch it. And I think as soon as the show airs, and everybody watches it, it’s going to change everybody’s mind,” Brooks said.

Al Madani, who is from the UAE, said the show gives her the chance to disrupt society’s viewpoint of Dubai and show a “genuine representation of life there.”

“I represent the era of modern Arab woman. So I what I want to do through the show is kill the misconception, and the stereotype the West and the rest of the world has of the Arab Middle Eastern woman. We are strong women, we’re free. We’re not submissive, we’re not controlled. We’re living our life the way we want,” Al Madani said.

Similar to other franchises, the women continue to break the mold of what it means to be a traditional housewife. “We’re entrepreneurs, we’re moms, we’re hustlers,” Al Madani said.

The trailer teases up drama, which cast members address

The trailer showcases glamorous parties, camel rides through the desert, mega yacht events and conflicts galore — crafting the perfect storm for the next iteration of Bravo’s hallmark franchise. 

A major point in the trailer is Ayan’s emotional journey navigating challenges in her life. For Ayan, the show offered a cathartic way to change her life for the better. 

“To be honest, I’m the type of person that has never dealt with my pain ever before. I’ve always just closed up and moved on. So I wake up in the morning, and I think, ‘Oh, what am I gonna do today? You’re alive, you’re happy, let’s move on.’ But then I went to meet my friend Sara [Al Madani], and then I started talking to her, and then she’s very easy to talk to. All of a sudden, I just find myself opening up to her, and that’s how it came about. I love that I did it because it kind of made me realize all your sh--, you got a lot of issues you got to deal with,” she said.

"Just because I’ve gone through stuff doesn’t mean I cannot be happier, funnier, and just see life in a light way."

Chanel Ayan

Ayan also offers comedic relief throughout the trailer, promising laugh out loud moments for viewers to enjoy.

“Life is too short. I want to enjoy every moment of it. Just because I’ve gone through stuff doesn’t mean I cannot be happier, funnier, and just see life in a light way,” Ayan said of her approach to life.

Drama has spilled over to social media even before the premiere, with Ayan recently unfollowing Ali and Stanbury on Instagram, causing rumors to swirl about what’s happening in Dubai. 

Ayan confirmed this is “not a rumor,” adding, “I would rather have one good friend that I trust and love over having five friends that sometimes you don’t feel comfortable with.”

Caroline Stanbury addresses her Bravo return: 'I always wanted to come back'

Fan favorite Caroline Stanbury returns to Bravo five years after the conclusion of “Ladies of London,” giving viewers the chance to see her evolution. Stanbury isn’t surprised that she returned to Bravo, but she is surprised by where she ended up.

“I always wanted to come back to Bravo, I didn’t think I would be making such a leap. I didn’t know until now that I’m the first person to ever do the leap from a different franchise, which is amazing,” Stanbury said.

For Stanbury, “RHODubai” offered a vastly different experience than “Ladies of London.” In short, she said, her second chance at reality was more relaxing than her first go-around.

“I was doing it before with my family and people that I grew up with, who maybe knew which buttons to push in me more than these girls do. Or the ones that do here, I don’t really care about, so it just doesn’t have the same effect on me,” Stanbury said.

Stanbury has stayed in contact with other Bravolebrities, naming Dorinda Medley, Larsa Pippen, Lisa Rinna and Meredith Marks as good friends. In fact, Stanbury encouraged Marks to join “The Real Housewives of Salt Lake City” as Marks debated putting her life out for the world to see.

Stanbury said, “She was in London, and I was in ‘Ladies of London.’ I was like, you’ve got to do it. I equate it to giving birth because it’s so difficult being pregnant when you’re doing it, but after you’ve given birth, you’re like, ‘Oh, I want to do that again.’”

Another housewife is joining for a cameo

The tail end of the trailer offers a glimpse of former “The Real Housewives of Atlanta” and upcoming “The Real Housewives Ultimate Girls Trip 2” cast mate Phaedra Parks, who is a longtime friend of Caroline Brooks.

Brooks explains the logistics of Parks’ cameo. “Phaedra has been a family friend of my family’s for over a decade, and my cousin Sean who lives in Dubai is a lot closer to Phaedra than I was until the last couple of years,” she said.