When it was first revealed that The Real Housewives of New York (RHONY) was going to come back for Season 14 with an entirely new cast (streaming on Hayu in Canada), many legacy Bravo fans were understandably concerned about whether they would connect with this new set of women.
But the risky move proved that great reality TV personalities can still be discovered, and that includes RHONY cast member Jessel Taank.
Taank burst onto the scene and RHONY fans were quick to call her the "villain" of the show. Whether she's a villain, someone who's a bit picky and a complainer, or just sarcastic, is up for interpretation. But there's no doubt that Taank is incredibly entertaining.
"I think when you first see me or meet me, in real life, and in general, I'm a very outspoken, very opinionated person," Taank told Yahoo Canada. "I'm a woman that's running a household, running my own businesses, running my husband's wardrobe, my kids, there is definitely a controlling factor in my personality that may come across as being bossy and a little bit villainous, I guess."
Jessel Taank, Erin Lichy feud
Two women that particularly seemed to clash on RHONY Season 14 have been Taank and Erin Lichy. When asked about the tension between the two women, Taank is very aware that her personality is "quite polarizing."
"Because I do have a very dry sense of humour, I think fundamentally Erin and I are quite different," Taank said. "I'm a little bit more playful and I don't take things to heart, and she's a little bit more sensitive."
"So you definitely get a sense of that. ... I think that we're sort of better at understanding each other and I think the things that Erin and I have in common are the fact that we're both mothers to young children. We both put our family first and we both have that entrepreneurial spirit. So we, today, are connecting on all those things."
'She has worked way too hard to be put in coach'
Of course, we can't possibly talk about RHONY feuds without mentioning the backlash Jenna Lyons received for not wanting to travel to Anguilla in coach, something Lichy revealed to the rest of the cast.
But now, Taank think Lyons had "every right" to be a "diva" and fly business class ahead of the girls trip.
"I was joking around with some of the producers ... because people are calling us bullies and it's very clear that Jenna has a very strong fan base out there, which I completely appreciate and she absolutely deserves that people are very passionate about Jenna Lyons," Taank said. "If I saw Jenna flying coach, I would do a double take because she is six foot, she's this sort of like Amazonian figure of a woman, and she's beautiful, but she has worked way too hard to be put in coach."
"I certainly don't hold it against her. I think it was just, because we were traveling as a group and we were obviously going on a girls trip, a part of the process is that we all travel together and we like go through every experience together. Jenna had every right to have her diva moment, but I think that's where some of the backlash was coming from."
Jessel Taank chooses honesty with her husband and sharing IVF journey
Overall, when it comes to Taank making her mark on reality TV, her approach, alongside her very popular husband Pavit, is to be as authentic as possible.
"I don't think we try to sugarcoat anything and I think that's what people really are gravitating towards is the fact that ... I literally am who I am on camera, off camera with him, and he's the same way," Taank said.
"The fact that [Pavit and I] were friends first obviously helps, because we really understand each other on a very deep level. But I also think that people watch reality TV for the real stuff, you don't want to see curated moments, you don't want to see people not being who they truly are."
Even from those who have called her a "villain," Taank received a lot of praise when she honestly shared her personal IVF journey on TV.
"I really think it's important to normalize those types of conversations, especially coming from an Indian background where those types of struggles are generally considered taboo and have a very strong stigma attached to it," Taank shared. "I have friends who are going through egg retrievals and freezing eggs, and they are doing it alone, and it's a very isolating process."
"I went through this whole experience knowing that it was not going to be easy to open up about these things. But essentially, if I could help normalize that conversation to one or two, or even 10 people, that I would feel accomplished in sharing some of those things."
In one particularly compelling and emotional moment on the show, we see Taank tell her mother the truth about her fertility issues.
"It was very liberating," Taank said. "I knew that she would react in the exact same way that she reacted, because I knew that she would obviously feel sadness that she was not able to support me in those in those hard moments."
"I think it was a very important conversation to have and the fact that we had it on quite an open stage was even more meaningful, because I do feel like women of colour, and just women in general, don't have the strength to sometimes share what they're going through with fertility, with postpartum. It's really important that we do talk about it, whether it be in private, or on national TV."
Taank is the mother of twin boys, Kai and Rio, who are two-and-a-half.
Aside from RHONY, Taank is still a successful New York PR woman, including working on a launch with Canada's own Lilly Singh.
"I think any woman that has kids is probably in the same boat as I am, where you're trying to figure things out and you're really trying to navigate your next move, be it career wise, or otherwise," Taank said. "But I really wanted to do what I love the most, which is help brands grow, but do it on a smaller scale and on my terms."
"I'm very, very lucky that I'm able to help other women who are starting their own thing in the fashion and beauty sphere. There's tons of opportunities that are coming out of being on the show, and I'm also launching my own e-commerce platform, which is taking place hopefully in the fall, if I can get my stuff together in time."
How to watch 'The Real Housewives of New York'
All seasons of RHONY are available to stream on Hayu in Canada.
Watch weekly episodes of RHONY Season 14 on Hayu on Mondays.