'Princesses Long Island' reality show stars predict viewers will relate
"Princesses: Long Island," debuting at 9 p.m. Sunday on Bravo, is the reality-show saga of six Jewish women in their 20s and 30s living pampered lives in their parents' Nassau County homes as they try to launch careers and find what cast member Erica Gimbel, 29, of Old Westbury, calls their NJB: the Nice Jewish Boy who can support them in the manner to which they've become very, very accustomed.
Over the planned 10-week run of "Princesses," filmed last summer, the women scale the length of the Island from Great Neck to the Hamptons. Cast members Casey Cohen, 28, from Jericho, Joey Lauren, 30, of Freeport, and Ashlee White, 30, of Roslyn, will stiletto into a speed-dating event at XO Restaurant in Huntington Village. White, an aspiring events planner, will celebrate her 30th birthday at the Carle Place nightspot Sugar, and she'll insist on interviewing prospective waiters to make sure they are hot enough for her party. The cast will limo to the Hamptons, where cast member Chanel Omari, a 28-year-old modern Orthodox woman who lives with her parents in the Village of Saddle Rock, will host a Shabbat weekend that includes clubbing.
IS IT OFFENSIVE?
The Jewish references by the women are troubling to some. On camera, White wonders out loud how Hasidic Jewish men get their payis (side curls) so perfect. "It was like a compliment," White says during a recent gathering of the women at the Great Neck Estates home where cast member Amanda Bertoncini, 27, lives with her mother. "I really want to know. I think it's a pencil. I love those curls. Look at mine. They're falling out."
Says Rabbi Randy Sheinberg of Temple Tikvah in New Hyde Park: "From what I've seen of the trailer, I think the show perpetuates a stereotype of life on Long Island that I find anti-Semitic, unfair and offensive."
On the other hand, Rabbi Emily Losben-Ostrov of Sinai Reform Temple in Bay Shore looks at the positive: "It's nice to see that these girls are clearly proud to be Jewish."
NOT ALL FRIENDS
Some of the women knew each other well before filming, others vaguely.
"Somebody knows this person from camp, you've all been to parties together," White says.
"Bat mitzvahs," Cohen adds. "Sometimes there were four bat mitzvahs in a weekend."
The friendships evolve over the course of the show, as there is fighting, drama and backstabbing.
Gimbel, for instance, steals Cohen's boyfriend. "We all do and say things we regret in life. We're in our 20s. We're going to make mistakes," Gimbel says. "That's why there are erasers on pencils."
How do they still sit in the same room together?
"I'm a big person. What am I going to do?" Cohen says. "You can take the low road if you want."
Also in one episode, Lauren calls White "funny-looking."
"Feelings don't go away," White says.
While Bravo has promoted the pampered angle -- not one of the women has a full-time, 9-to-5 job -- the cast members insist they work hard.
Bertoncini is selling her creation called The Drink Hanky. "I bring them everywhere," she says while reclining on her living room couch. "Can someone get my purse? I'm such a princess, I know."
The purse is delivered and Bertoncini extracts a patterned cloth sleeve meant to cover a drink in a bar so the user's hand doesn't get wet or cold.
Lauren says she went through school fighting a learning disability. "I was always in resource room," she says. Lauren grew up as Joey Lauren Brodish, but she says changing her Facebook page moniker to Joey Lauren was like legally changing her surname. So now she just goes by Joey Lauren as she launches her company, Kissamint, which packages lip conditioner and mouth freshener together.
Most of the women have lived away from home before. White moved back from New York City after a serious health scare that left her bedridden for nine months. "You never know how strong you are until being strong is your only option," she says.
'CRAZY. A DREAM'
The women are excited about their imminent close-up.
"Someone needs to pinch me, honestly," Bertoncini says. "It's starting to hit me. It's crazy. A dream."
"And a nightmare," adds her mother, Barbara, who goes by Babs.
They laugh, but "Princesses" already has been ridiculed on blogs and websites as shallow by people who watched the trailer online.
"Meanwhile, they have no clue about any of us," Amanda Bertoncini says. "That's shallow."
Omari predicts America will relate to the women. "We all have ups and downs, the good, the bad and the ugly. Just because you come from money or have money doesn't mean you have no problems."
Omari, for instance, weeps on screen about being unmarried. "To expose that in front of the world -- I think the hardest part is to open yourself up and be so vulnerable."
Lauren says she isn't perturbed by critics or haters. "I actually was hysterical laughing today. I was looking through the blogs and reading them out loud to people," she says. "I look at it as comedy."
"Even Moses had haters," Omari says.
MEET THE STARS
AMANDA BERTONCINI, 27
Great Neck South High School '04, Hunter College '09
LIVES AT Mother's house in Great Neck Estates
WORK Launching The Drink Hanky Collection
QUOTE "We don't all brag about using our parents' credit cards. It's a lot about relationships living with your parents."
JOEY LAUREN, 30
JFK Bellmore High School '00, University at Albany '04
LIVES AT Father's house in Freeport
WORK Launching Kissamint, which packages lip conditioner and breath freshener together
QUOTE "Whenever you have a strong personality, someone is going to have an opinion about it."
CASEY COHEN, 28
Jericho High School '02, New York University bachelor's '06, master's in art education '11
LIVES AT AT Her apartment in Manhattan; comes home to Jericho "Monday through Wednesday-ish"
WORK Waitress at 1 OAK NYC while working as visual artist
QUOTE "We come from a really amazing, luxurious place. But that doesn't mean we haven't earned it."
ERICA GIMBEL, 29
Wheatley High School '01, Indiana University '05
LIVES AT Parents' house in Old Westbury
WORK Part-time marketing for her dad's print business
QUOTE "If it sparkles, I want it. I say, 'Glitter is my favorite color.' "
CHANEL OMARI, 28
Hebrew Academy of the Five Towns and Rockaway '02, Northeastern University '06
LIVES AT Parents' house in Village of Saddle Rock
WORK Aspiring broadcast journalist
QUOTE "I really want to be the white, Jewish Oprah."
ASHLEE WHITE, 30
Herricks High School '00, Hofstra University '05
LIVES AT Parents' house in Roslyn
WORK PROJECT Launching Ashlee White Events
QUOTE "I don't have to clean my room, no rent, no food shopping, none of that."