It may have taken pretty much the entirety of Season 12, but in recent weeks, it has finally become clear exactly where Leah McSweeney fits into The Real Housewives of New York City: she’s there to read the other women — Ramona Singer, in particular — to absolute filth in ways that no other cast member ever has. Frankly, the show has never needed someone like her more.
One could argue that Bethenny Frankel showcased a similar ability to call out the narcissism and hypocrisy displayed by her fellow Bravo stars, but her outbursts were always clouded by the fact that she was too wrapped up in their world to truly ever distinguish herself from it. Leah, on the other hand, doesn’t occupy that Upper East Side fever dream and has no desire to, and this is what gives her a cutting clarity and allows her to see these women and their toxic behaviors for who and what they are. I’m in love!
Leah’s crowning moment this season came in Episode 15, in the aftermath of Ramona Singer’s 63rd birthday/”coming out” party. The risque lapdance that Leah gave LuAnn de Lesseps made the other guests clutch their pearls and the crazy-eyed one herself demand production “shut it down” as she threatened to leave the show. Meanwhile, Sonja Morgan was so sloshed that she table danced on a mirrored table, smashing the glass with her heels as she went. To Ramona, that was NBD. Leah wasn’t having it.
Of course, Ramona is incapable of confronting her own behavior, which is at turns manipulative, gaslighting, victim-blaming, immature, vicious, and downright inappropriate. It’s impossible to believe that the other women don’t see this — and indeed, the likes of Dorinda Medley and Luann have remarked on it on numerous occasions — but their distaste for and anger at Ramona’s backstabbing behavior and general histrionics tends to be short-lived, with issues brushed under the carpet before you can say “kadooze to all of us.”
It’s clear that Ramona thinks that she’s untouchable, and on some level, she’s likely right. She certainly has seniority in the franchise, being one of the only original cast members still on the show. However, that doesn’t excuse the fact that she seems like a pretty terrible person who treats people, even those who are meant to be her friend, like crap when it suits her. Leah has been the only one so far to truly call that out and predictably, Ramona can’t handle it. Oh well!
It would be easy for Leah to feel overwhelmed or even intimidated by someone like Ramona, who’s older and holds herself in such high regard because of such superficial things as which side of the road her Hamptons house is on and the fact that she has “50 close girlfriends.” It says a lot about Leah’s character that she couldn’t care less about any of those things because she has, you know, morals and values. This anchors her not only as the show’s one and only consistent voice of reason but as the only one capable of bringing down the monster that Ramona has so clearly become.
The other thing that sets Leah apart from the other women is that she’s not perfect and she accepts that fact. She still gets sloppy drunk and acts the fool and she still has messy relationships with men and women just like the others. The difference is that she knows who she is beneath all of that stuff and she holds tight to it, embracing the imperfections instead of trying to gloss over them with surgery, money, fancy parties, or fake friends. To borrow an overquoted song lyric, Leah McSweeney is 100% that bitch and my God, is it delicious to watch, especially when she uses her powers for good like cutting Ramona down to size.
Her refusal to back down in the face of Ramona’s oft-used tactics of manipulation, denial, and feigned innocence shows just what a force she is to be reckoned with. Ramona has gone unchallenged for 12 seasons and it’s time someone stepped up to the plate to take her on. Leah is that person and frankly, her arrival is long overdue.
Jennifer Still is a writer and editor from New York who cares too way much about fictional characters and spends her time writing about them.