Throughout her freshman season of Bravo’s “The Real Housewives of New York City,” Jessel Taank has prioritized authenticity.
In 2022, Jessel, a fashion publicist and brand consultant, joined the cast as part of the beloved show’s reboot, offering a refreshed look into the lives of women in New York City.
The “RHONY” reboot cast also includes former executive creative director and president of J. Crew, Jenna Lyons; real estate agent and interior designer Erin Lichy; marketing and communications consultant Brynn Whitfield; model and entrepreneur Ubah Hassan and influencer Sai De Silva.
From their families to their careers to their romances, the ladies of NYC have laid it all out for viewers to see -- especially Jessel, who from the start opened up about her challenges conceiving children as well as the impact of postpartum depression on her marriage to her husband, Pavit Randhawa.
With nine episodes under her belt, TODAY.com caught up with Jessel on her experience becoming a housewife, her take on all that’s played out this season, and what’s to come.
This interview was edited and condensed for clarity.
You shared your IVF experience with your mom for the first time on camera. Why?
At the start, you want to be as open and as transparent as possible. I think it’s so crucial in connecting with the audience and having people relate to you. Nowadays, people are so curated, so worried about responses and how they’ll be received. But at the end of the day, I’ve always lived my life this way … and it’s just to be unapologetically myself. I’m hopefully starting to see people really appreciate that.
But the other thing that was really important to me was, everything I went through from a fertility standpoint was a big part of my journey, as a woman, as a mother, as a wife, so I did want to share the fact that we went through this and it was a tough time. I appreciate when celebrities or people who are in the public eye talk about real stuff, and I can relate to that. So I was hoping that people would see that I was being authentic, and really sharing the ups and downs … the not so great versus the great as well.
What’s the response been like? Did your mom say anything after you finished taping the scene?
The public’s reaction was extremely positive. Deep down inside, I knew my mother would act the way she did. I didn’t think that she would be anything different than how she reacted, which gave me comfort, obviously doing this in such a public way. It was very touching for people to see a very real conversation play out.
People love my mom. Outside of my husband being the breakout star, I think she’s probably second in line. She’s a very graceful, classy, sophisticated woman. I really did want to tell her, and the reason why I felt like it would be an important conversation on screen was because I really felt the need to normalize the topic and normalize the sort of taboo and stigma that inherently comes with infertility traits.
My mother, on the other hand, was a little like, “Wait a second, like all of this is coming out.” Obviously, she was a little shocked, but I think she took it like a champ and handled it so gracefully. More than anything, she was just very sad that I had to deal with that myself. I know that there was obviously a very good reason as to why I did so, but I think that she just was upset that I didn’t feel like I could bring her in to support me in that way. But other than that, I think after the fact, she’s obviously just very happy that she has two healthy grandchildren, and my dad feels the same way
How are the boys doing?
They’re crazy. They’re good. They’re starting school in a couple of weeks, and we just had their teachers do a home visit, so that was fun.
Did you go with the $62,000 a year school?
I went with a different one … Pavit won that argument. But again, I think that was a process and a conversation that obviously, it was funny when we were in the moment, but it’s a very relatable topic of conversation because, especially if you’re living in New York, that whole process is very intense. When the twins turned 1, I was like, “Oh my god, we have to start looking at schools.” And by the way —this is just the beginning. I think it gets progressively worse and worse and more intense as they get older.
You’ve also been transparent about your relationship with Pavit. Now that you’ve been able to watch your interactions back, what has it been like for you as a couple?
It's been funny because we’ve known each other for so long. We’re best friends, we’ve been married for almost 10 years. You sort of forget how you are with each other, right? We’re very comfortable, and you sort of get into this rhythm of being married.
To watch it back and actually study our relationship on screen, and then have all these opinions also dissecting our relationship, it was very interesting for me.
I took a step back, actually, after Episode One, and people were commenting that I was bossy and a b---- and all of these things. I am someone that doesn’t take criticism to heart and I don’t take it personally, but I do want to kind of understand why they thought that way. So I took a step back and actually watched the episode again, and I was like, “Oh yeah, you know what? Maybe I was a little harsh on the guy … maybe I’m a bit bossy and kind of edgy to him.” So I think it makes you very aware of how you are. It’s the best kind of couple’s therapy, by the way.
Let’s dive into the drama on “RHONY.” On “Watch What Happens Live with Andy Cohen,” Brynn said that she felt the ladies were harsh on you when you talked about the lull in intimacy you experienced with your husband after you had your kids. Do you agree?
I definitely think they could have been a little bit more sympathetic. Certainly, looking back, I was very open about why, I don’t think I just turned around and was like, “I don’t feel like being intimate with my husband.”
There was a very clear reason and logic behind that. To me, it was a little confusing, and I think they definitely could have been a little bit more sympathetic.
But at the same time, until you’ve gone through something that I have been through, I do understand it’s hard putting yourself in my shoes. For them, they were just like, “Oh God, why wouldn’t she just do it?” But I think it takes the years of what I went through and sort of bearing the weight of all of that to really understand it. However, as women, I hope that reflecting back on this, they may sort of look at things differently and be a little bit more sympathetic to women who are in the same situation.
Speaking of Brynn, a big conversation has been about Brynn flirting with Erin’s husband, Abe. Why do you think Erin reacted the way she did, knowing that Brynn tends to flirt with everyone?
I was sort of surprised at her reaction. For me, if you’re confident in your marriage and you’re secure, and you know your husband ... I would have laughed my face off if I was in that position. Honestly, I thought she would have done the same.
I wonder if it was in a different scenario and in a different setting, if she would have been a little bit more relaxed about the whole thing.
But I think Erin does take things to heart, and hopefully you’re starting to see that she is a little bit more sensitive as a person. I was standing right there (when Brynn made the comments), and I honestly was laughing along with it because I know Brynn’s intentions were not to steal her husband. It was obvious, but I think Erin was upset more about the actual context of the conversation and where it took place.
Brynn did say the "D word" (divorce), and I was like, “She didn’t.” Of course production did the flashback, and it’s like, she said it like five times. I get why she would have been upset at that. It probably wasn’t the best conversation even though it was said in jest.
We get to watch the episode a couple of days before it goes live, and it was hilarious, because Brynn texted me and was like “oh s***, I knew this would happen.” She was like “I don’t remember saying it,” and I was like “neither do I.” It was really hilarious that we ended up being the subject of the flashback.
Eating your words.
Eating our words, exactly.
Earlier in the season, Erin called you a lunatic and said arguing with you is like arguing with a chatbot. What did you think of those comments?
I don’t really go there, I don’t attack people’s character. Erin took things so seriously, but for me, our whole conversation was very light.
She said I was used to being catered to, which I was very offended about, because I don’t come from old money and I don’t come from a privileged background.
In one quick swoop, she took that away from me, and I was very offended by that.
I think Erin needs to lighten up, like it wasn’t that serious. To call me a lunatic behind my back, that was not cool. You could have said it to my face in the moment … you had the opportunity to, but again, I just made fun of it. Because it’s not me, that’s just her opinion.
Something else that’s gotten a lot of attention on social media is the rumor that you moved to New York for “RHONY.” Would you like to clarify that?
It’s really funny how upset and aggravated people got about that. Look, I moved to New York in 2006. I met my husband here, I started my career here and we lived here for almost a decade.
When I got married, we reconsidered where we were living, where we could afford property … all those details are important. So Pavit is from L.A. and we ended up moving back to L.A. The twins were born there — it’s no secret, it’s on my LinkedIn.
When I had the twins, it was really hard for me because my family was in London. The minute you have kids, all you want is to be close to your mom, and you want that support of your family. So we were having conversations early last year about whether we see ourselves in L.A., or could we do something a little bit closer to Europe, so there’s more of a middle ground where my parents don’t have to fly 12 hours to see their grandchildren. We were actively making a decision to move back to New York.
In the meantime, Pavit was starting a company that was based in Dallas. So we had to temporarily stop in Dallas, Pavit was setting up the business and it was like a landing pad. So we bought a home, we still have the home, he goes there once a month. He’s very much integrated into his business there, and he needs a pad there. That’s all it was. But we live in New York and the kids go to school in New York.
Do you feel like any areas of the city are underrepresented on the show?
Harlem would be amazing. Harlem is a cultural hub. It’s thriving in the restaurant scene, and the art and performing arts scenes have always been exciting there.
Queens would be interesting too. There’s so much culture in Astoria.
I am all about someone that can bring diversity and multicultural excitement to the mix because I think that that’s what really causes the excitement. The friction within a friend group comes when you have people from different walks of life and different experiences with different points of view. The Upper East Side is great, but I don’t know if it brings that cultural pizazz that I would love to see for someone else to come into the show.
Outside of New York City, have you been in contact with any housewives from other cities?
Kyle Richards and I share the same publicist, so I’ve met with her and spoken to her a number of times. Dolores is amazing, we’re Instagram buds. All the women from Miami are fabulous.
If you were to come back for another season, how would you do things differently?
I wouldn’t change myself. My personality is my personality, it’s what got me here. It’s what people are loving … I hope, the fact that I am so open and honest and funny, and I have this British humor that I can’t really brush off. I will continue to be open and honest and as transparent as possible. There’s a lot going on just in our lives right now that I’m excited to share if we do do a second season.