James Kennedy Is the Number One Guy on ‘Vanderpump Rules’


When the trailer for the Vanderpump Rules season 10 reunion dropped final week, it wasn’t the high-octane feelings or robust questions posed by Andy Cohen about “Scandoval”—the dishonest debacle that has dominated the season—that captured the web. As a substitute, what went viral was a handful of foolish bon mots lobbed on the dishonest events by solid member James Kennedy. Hottest: Kennedy’s immediately memeable line directed at Tom Sandoval, whom he deemed “a worm with a mustache.” The phrase has since garnered over 1.8 million searches on TikTok and spawned viewer-created merch from t-shirts and hoodies to mugs and candles.

It’s no straightforward feat to seize consideration throughout a season like this when a single storyline has dominated headlines. And but Kennedy, who has been a solid member on the present since 2015, could also be having his greatest season but. Because the cycle wraps up with the finale episode on Might 17 and reunion episodes to come back starting Might 24, followers are keen to listen to extra from the 31-year-old London native. His excessive transparency, biting wit, and lack of a filter have typically gotten him in hassle previously—even costing him his job and fracturing vital relationships. However now, in a season marked by deceit and darkness, his no-holds-barred commentary has been a welcome supply of levity and humor.

A protracted-running bit on the present, originated by Kennedy’s former castmate Jax Taylor, typically has followers opining on who they take into account to be “the primary man within the group.” (Taylor infamously declared himself prime canine in a season 4 struggle with Sandoval and different solid members.) With Taylor not part of the present and each “the Toms” in shame—Sandoval for dishonest on his longtime girlfriend Ariana Madix and his greatest buddy Tom Schwartz for serving to to cowl up the affair and for typically being horrible to his ex-wife Katie Maloney—Kennedy has emerged because the prime candidate.

For Maggie Kelley, the administrator of @BestofBravo, a fan account with over 240K followers, watching folks act out is a big a part of the attraction of actuality TV. “Individuals behaving badly make for funnier episodes and extra attention-grabbing storylines,” Kelley says, including that some conditions—like Scandoval—cross into unsavory territory.

The cardinal rule of reality TV is which you could—and will—behave badly up to a degree, however you’ll be able to’t disguise it from the cameras. Sandoval and Leviss’s secret affair violated that boundary. Which is why Kennedy’s sincere and indignant reactions to the story because it has unfolded this season have made him a fan favourite.

It’s a big shift. For the higher a part of the seven seasons that he has been a solid member of Vanderpump Guidelines, the DJ and part-time server has held the position of a villain. A real enfant horrible, Kennedy’s storylines have been marked by his sharp (and at occasions merciless and misogynistic) tongue and his tendency to spontaneously erupt in a tantrum or interact in outrageous antics (chugging a bottle of Fireball, beginning a screaming match along with his greatest buddy Lala Kent over who ate a plate of pasta). His most problematic moments, which vary from dubbing himself the “white Kanye” (a nickname he’s since retired) to relentlessly fat-shaming Maloney till it led to him getting fired from his job at SUR, are placing. However his candor has additionally been wielded in additional constructive methods. Kennedy has at all times been keen to brazenly share the ups and downs of his life with the viewers, from discussing his struggles with alcohol and later, sobriety, to divulging painful reminiscences about his household life rising up. Kelley attributes his success, particularly this season, to that ingredient of authenticity.

“He’s tremendous relatable and places all of it on the market, and I actually respect him for it, as a result of that’s what he signed up for,” Kelley says, likening Kennedy to Luann “the Countess” de Lesseps of The Real Housewives of New York City, who has change into beloved within the Bravo universe for her willingness to let viewers in on her errors, together with the story behind her 2017 arrest in Palm Beach, Fla. “He’s exhibiting his complete life and taking us alongside for the experience—the nice, the unhealthy, and the ugly,” Kelley says.

Learn Extra: Everything You Need to Know About ‘Scandoval’ Ahead of the Vanderpump Rules Season 10 Finale

It’s not exhausting for Kennedy to look good this season: his solely male counterparts within the ensemble solid are the Toms, each of whom have drawn ire for his or her deceit and hypocrisy. Sandoval has at all times tried to current himself as somebody who stands up for what’s proper, taking showy stands like going out of his technique to affirm Madix’s bisexual identification or calling out Taylor’s intention to rent an anti-gay pastor to officiate his wedding ceremony. Over time, it’s been clear he’s hungry to be perceived because the individual with the strongest ethical compass in a crew of self-absorbed Hollywood hopefuls. However with the invention of his sustained affair with Raquel Leviss, who additionally occurs to have been Madix’s greatest buddy and Kennedy’s former fiancée, he’s confirmed himself to be disingenuous. In the meantime Schwartz, not too long ago divorced from Maloney, has fastidiously modeled the persona of a bumbling, hapless “good man” for the reason that first season of Vanderpump Guidelines—an act that has allowed his unhealthy conduct, from gaslighting and dishonest on his spouse to throwing drinks, to go largely unchecked by viewers and solid members alike.

Lala Kent (left), James Kennedy (middle), and Katie Maloney (proper) on ‘Vanderpump Guidelines’

Nicole Weingart—Bravo

Against this, Kennedy shouldn’t be right here to make buddies. He has hardly ever gave the impression to be involved with being favored or showing a sure method on the present. He exhibits uncensored emotion, whether or not meaning bursting into tears in SUR co-owner Lisa Vanderpump’s workplace or telling Taylor precisely what he thinks of him as a coworker. This lack of a filter has resulted in explosive moments, nevertheless it has additionally established Kennedy as somebody who doesn’t alter his persona for TV. For Vanessa Rizi, who co-hosts the podcast Real Moms of Bravo with Abby Steffens, Kennedy’s willingness to be actual makes him one of many present’s most reliable characters, particularly in a season like this.

“He’s unfiltered, uncensored, and doesn’t come throughout as tremendous rehearsed… He’s the one keen to name it like he sees it. He’s not afraid or intimidated like Sandoval or Schwartz,” Rizi says, noting that these qualities have not too long ago made him one of the pleasurable solid members to observe. Kelley provides, “His confessionals are up there with the housewives.”

Learn Extra: The 50 Most Influential Reality TV Seasons of All Time

For Rizi’s co-host Steffens, Kennedy’s attraction lies in his evolution over time, significantly on the subject of his remedy of girls. “All of us love a comeback story,” Steffens says, citing the truth TV star’s previous conduct and the way he appears to have a respectful relationship along with his present girlfriend and real friendships with the ladies on the present. “We’ve seen him put in a number of work. He’s been capable of rise.”

Kennedy hasn’t deserted his previous methods. This season alone, his resolution to start consuming once more and a subsequent incident earned him a reprimand from Vanderpump; he threw a drink in Schwartz’s face; and he made sexist comments about Leviss on social media. He won’t ever be mistaken for a “good man,” however he gained’t faux to be one, both. That’s what units him other than his castmates.

And for Rizi, like many different viewers, good conduct and “good folks” are usually not the rationale to observe actuality TV. “As viewers, we’re complicit in permitting naughty conduct, as a result of it’s all of the stuff we don’t do in our on a regular basis lives,” she says. “We’ve to have the ‘unhealthy,’ as a result of that’s what makes actuality TV so good.”

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Write to Cady Lang at cady.lang@timemagazine.com.

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