Warning: This article contains spoilers for the premiere episode of "The Real Housewives of Dubai."
The "Real Housewives of Dubai” premiere is here, and these ladies are ready to shine.
“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”), all bringing a different perspective, fashion style and taste to the table.
Episode one started strong, giving viewers an in-depth look at the ladies’ lives and the drama that swirls among them. Prior to the premiere, TODAY chatted with the ladies all about the first episode, hearing their take all about what’s happened already and all that’s to come.
Each housewife brings a unique tagline to the table
Some of the most anticipated parts of any "Housewives" premiere are the taglines and title cards, the Dubai ladies don’t disappoint. With a purple and gold, highly graphical and modern intro, the ladies are setting a new standard. Interestingly enough, it seems the ladies’ names are spelled in Arabic behind the English spelling of their names.
Chanel Ayan: “They don’t hate me because I’m beautiful, they hate me because they’re basic.”
After the conclusion of the taglines, we see Ayan on set during a photo shoot — one of the many she’s done as Dubai’s first Black supermodel, appearing for top fashion brands like Chanel, DiorCartier, Dolce & Gabbana, Tiffany, Valentino and Louis Vuitton. Ayan is a breath of fresh air, serving hysterical and equally iconic one-liners and quips throughout the premiere. As she told TODAY prior to the premiere, this season will show Ayan navigating her deep emotional trauma as well as building her brand, Ayan Beauty.
Sara Al Madani: “A woman should be two things, who and what she wants.”
The first housewife we meet in the premiere is Dr. Sara Al Madani, a newcomer to the group who is a force to be reckoned with. As the episode begins, Al Madani explains Dubai’s evolution from sand dunes to a metropolis, proclaiming “would I ever live anywhere else? Hell no.” We catch up with Al Madani at the end of the episode, as Al Madani and Nina Ali take their children to the iconic Dubai frame. As a rebellious, strong mother forging a legacy, Al Madani is set to be an empowering voice of reason among the group.
Caroline Brooks: “The desert is ruthless, but nothing is more savage than me.”
At the start of the episode, Brooks is honest about her place in the group: “my closest friend? It depends on the day of the week.” As a single mother who moved to Dubai with her now ex-husband, Brooks has set out to open a spa in Dubai, a journey we’ll see this season. We also see Brooks navigating the woes of friendship, as she spars with Ayan throughout the premiere, setting the stage for a feud that will surely carry the inaugural season. Brooks is strong, successful and has grit, all qualities that culminate to create a successful housewife in the making.
Lesa Milan: “The only thing you can take from me are notes”
As a successful fashion designer, we see Milan balance her career with family and friendship in the premiere. Hailing from Jamaica, Milan spent years in the United States and met her husband, a successful financier, at the well-known LIV nightclub in Miami. After moving to Dubai, Milan launched her brand, Mina Roe, and has been raising her multi-cultural family, with three sons that all have different accents! As a best friend to Ayan, we see Milan getting right into the drama, with Milan reminding viewers that “the most fire thing in Dubai is me.”
Nina Ali: “If you think money can’t buy you happiness, you clearly haven’t been to Dubai.”
Ali serves as the center of the group, as exemplified in a friend tree at the beginning of the episode, a la Kyle Richards, Karen Huger or Teresa Giudice in their respective cities. As a close ally of Caroline Stanbury, we see Ali talk about her initial impression of Stanbury: “I’ve always found Caroline a bit standoffish when I was around her,” an impression that’s now evolved as the two are close friends. As a successful entrepreneur, mother and crystal lover, Ali hosts the first group event of the season and introduces the group to Al Madani, giving the ladies the first chance to confront their drama for viewers to see.
Caroline Stanbury: “In the city of gold, nothing shines brighter than me.”
In the premiere, Stanbury shows off her massively different life compared to when we saw her last on "Ladies of London." Stanbury lives in Dubai with her fiancé (now husband), Sergio Callaro, children, and adorable dog. She has the same demeanor that viewers fell in love with on Ladies of London, but with a new perspective and experience that she’s bringing to her friend group. The main drama in the premiere centers on Stanbury’s non-invitation to Ayan for her hen party and all that swirls from Brooks telling Ayan she was not invited due to Ayan not being seen as “important,” allegedly, in Stanbury’s eyes.
Family is a centerpiece of the ladies’ lives
Throughout the episode, we meet the ladies’ families, shining a focus on how they balance motherhood with their social and entrepreneurial endeavors. From Milan bringing in chunks of ice to cool her pool for her kids to Al Madani and Ali taking their children to the Dubai Frame, it’s clear that these mothers do anything to make their kids’ lives special.
For Milan, raising her three sons in Dubai is a no-brainer due to the safety the city offers. “I just love the peace of mind that if my kids, when they’re a little bit older, get pulled over by a police officer, they’re not going to be discriminated against because of the color of their skin. If they go for a job, you know, they’re going to be judged by their ability and not by the color of their skin.”
Although she loves raising her kids in Dubai, Ali recognizes that “life can be really, really easy in Dubai,” and intentionally makes sure she “doesn’t over give.” In fact, she brings her kids back to the U.S. once a summer to explore nature, something they don’t get to do often in the desert landscape of Dubai.
Brooks, a single mother who set out to be financially independent after her divorce, traces her motivation back to her parents, who immigrated from Honduras to the United States. Brooks had to “grow up and see the struggle” teaching her a good work ethic from a young age.
For Brooks, her mother inspired her to not take no for an answer and build a life of success and significance.
“I knew I wanted more, and I knew I was gonna get it” Brooks explains.
The ladies set the stage for drama that will carry the season ahead
Ayan and Brooks waste no time diving into drama during episode one.
While at brunch with Milan, Ayan explains that she received an early-morning call from Brooks, informing her that she would not be invited to Stanbury’s hen party (a classier version of the American bachelorette party), stating that Ayan is allegedly not important enough to attend in Stanbury’s eyes.
Ayan questions Stanbury’s reasoning and dives into her thoughts on Stanbury’s relationship in her confessional, saying she thinks Stanbury and her fiancé, former Real Madrid player Sergio Carrallo, have “wannabe, makeup chemistry,” “all their sexual energy is on their Instagram page,” and, “it’s a collaboration relationship.”
Stanbury, now married to Carrallo, tells TODAY that she finds Ayan’s statements “strange,” explaining that “I can’t believe that she would feel good about putting someone else’s relationship down to raise herself. I’m actually very disappointed, and she absolutely knows nothing about me or my family to be able to comment on my relationship with Sergio.”
At the end of brunch, Milan receives a call from Brooks, who relays the same information to her: that Ayan won’t be invited to Stanbury’s celebration. Little does Brooks know that Ayan is listening to the call, setting up a hysterical back and forth between Milan and Ayan.
Milan concludes the call with Brooks and calls her “honey,” causing Ayan to express her frustration in Milan’s positive affirmation of Brooks.
Following up, Milan says in her confessional, “I hate when Brooks and Chanel (Ayan) fight, because I hate being in the middle. I try not to pick sides, but I’m always team Chanel (Ayan).”
Ayan then delivers a quotable line, discussing how petty she can be if challenged… “we can play tit-for-toot.”
The ending of the episode leaves the group divided
The first group event of the series comes thanks to Ali, as she hosts a dinner bringing the women together and introducing Al Madani to the group.
As the ladies discuss Stanbury’s hen party, Ayan asks if they can change the conversation to something that interests her, as she wasn’t at the party. The conversation quickly dives into a fiery argument over Brooks’ carrying of Stanbury’s alleged “important people” comment to Ayan.
New to the group, Al Madani steps up as the voice of reason at the table, trying to bring resolution to the conversation. Al Madani proclaims that there’s even a classy way to have an argument, giving a valiant effort to bridge the gap between the ladies.
Speaking to TODAY, Al Madani explains, “I feel like class should be part of everything. Like even if you want to gossip, even if you want to fight, even if you want to argue, I believe in the language of love and respect to others.”
Although Al Madani emphasizes peace, she understands that it may not always be possible, telling TODAY, “I feel like no matter how much of an angel you are, or a good person, or a kind person, or how zen you are, sometimes you got to your halo a little bit dirty.”
In true "Housewives" fashion, the “important person” conversation spirals into a fiery back-and-forth between Ayan and Brooks, and leaves the episode with a cliffhanger as Stanbury says that although she didn’t make the comment initially, she “picks it up.”
Speaking to TODAY, Stanbury clarifies the meaning of “important people” in her life.
“All the people that supported me and Sergio were very important to us, because I think when you get divorced and you restart a new relationship and move to other places, you’ve already got so much change that people that really helped through those times you remember,” Stanbury explains.
The episode ends with a stoic shot of Ayan processing what’s transpired at the table, leaving viewers waiting what’s to come in the feud between Ayan, Stanbury, and Brooks.
Ayan explains her relationship with Brooks to TODAY, stating that she does like to push Brooks' buttons, but “when she’s funny and nice and outgoing, I love that side of her. But I always have to be like, looking through my back (and saying) ‘what the hell is sitting next to me?’ You know, ‘what’s she gonna do?’ So it’s like that type of relationship, but I still have lots of love for her as a friend.”
It’s safe to say that the Dubai ladies will be overserving us this season, and we can’t wait for more.
You can catch the “The Real Housewives of Dubai” every Wednesday at 9 p.m. on Bravo as well as on Peacock the next day.