Saturday, February 20, 2016

Michael and Ashley Darby’s Plan For Surviving ‘Real Housewives’? To Have Fun.
Having suffered his share of public drubbing when some of his riskier bets during the go-go years of the real estate boom went bust, followed by a divorce from his wife of 20 years and then marriage to the much younger Ashley, Michael Darby, 56, was past the point of caring about other people’s opinions.

Similarly, you would have thought Ashley — a stunning 27-year-old beauty queen who is used to speaking at public events and posing for photos with celebrities, socialites and underprivileged children — would not feel self-conscious in front of 100 or so people. 

But when those people are watching your debut on the latest iteration of Bravo’s “Real Housewives” franchise — whose main selling point is rich, brassy women being rich and brassy — you might forgive her for feeling a tad nervous, especially since in her first scene, she gushes: “My husband has a really big penis, I swear to God.”

By the time the show aired, on Jan. 24, she had also told viewers that she finds her husband’s Australian accent sexy and that after exercising they like to “bang like rabbits.” 

Ashley was a late addition to the cast, joining in Episode 2. She is by far the youngest but fits nicely into the conceit of the show. Like the other five cast members, she is an African American woman with wealth partying in an exclusive Maryland suburb that is 76 percent white and under 5 percent black. Only three of the women — Karen Huger, wife of “the Black Bill Gates”; Charisse Jackson Jordan, wife of former NBA coach Eddie Jordan; and model Katie Rost — live or grew up in Potomac. Ashley grew up in Sandy Spring, Md., the oldest of three kids raised by a single mom. Until marrying Michael, her only memory of Potomac was as a child sitting in the front seat of her grandfather’s truck. A retired county parks department worker, he had a business mowing lawns and trimming hedges at mostly wealthy people’s homes around Washington.
Huger is also from a modest background, having grown up on a Virginia farm. What sets Ashley apart from the other women is her youth and her marriage to Michael, a former competitive skiier who at 25 directed the landmark restoration of the Willard Hotel and went on to co-found one of the highest-flying real estate firms in the region. After saving his business from near death during the Great Recession, he could have kicked back and worked on his golf game, but instead he donned a flak jacket and headed to Mogadishu to plunge into the real estate market there. 

In real life, all that audacity and canniness has earned him a deep well of respect around Washington. But millions of viewers now know him mainly for being 29 years older than his wife, a pink-fleshed, bald baby boomer who sticks out like a wad of bubble gum dropped into a bowl of Hershey’s Kisses. 

It isn’t hard to guess some of the insults the couple now gets online; “gold digger” and “daddy complex” are common entries for Ashley. On Ashley’s first episode, Gizelle Bryant, ex-wife of a megachurch pastor, assumes aloud that Michael is on Viagra and refers to Ashley as “THOT-ish” — THOT being shorthand for “that ho over there.” Bravo instantaneously promoted the diss online.

So why expose yourself to gawking and ridicule? Why not keep your extraordinary sex life and vacations to yourselves? And play video-game bowling and beer pong in the privacy of your own penthouse condo or beach house?

People go on reality television for a reason. Ashley and Michael Darby are already rich. So what else are they looking for?
RELATED:  Ashley Darby Shares Regrets: First ‘Real Housewives Of Potomac’ Friendship Over?

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