Growing up in the 90’s we had The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. We followed the fictional lives of Will, Carlton, and the rest of the Banks family. We were intrigued by their crazy antics, their upper-class lifestyle, and, who are we kidding, that theme song. Perhaps for us millennials that’s some of the reason we have such an affixation, even now as adults, with the lives of the rich and famous.
Today, reality TV has officially taken over. When Fresh Prince ended its course America began its reality obsession with Laguna Beach and The Hills. And after a series of reality shows broke viewing records, in January of 2014, E! introduced us to our latest obsession, The Rich Kids of Beverly Hills.
The show follows a group of rich (we’re talking millionaire-and-billionaire-kind-of-rich) and beautiful friends including Dorothy Wang, EJ Johnson, Jonny Drubel, Brendan Fitzpatrick and the token blond bombshell, Morgan Stewart, as they navigate life in their 20’s in that infamous zip code of theirs.
While the show is appealing for its millions of viewers who didn’t grow up with this extravagant lifestyle, growing up rich in Beverly Hills didn’t feel abnormal for Stewart. “I went to school, hung out with my friends and went to the movies. Nothing was really that crazy,” Stewart says. Now that she’s on the show she gets recognized more, but the transition to fame was fairly easy for her. She’s doing the same types of things she’s always done—she’s living life up, and it’s highly enjoyable to watch. Her bubbly personality and firecracker wit made her a perfect candidate for reality TV. “I’ve pretty much had the same personality since I was born,” she adds. It didn’t change for the camera.
Stewart and her friends, despite the money they were born into, are all business-minded individuals who strive to make something of their own lives. There’s more to them than a pair of Louboutins and dinner at Madeos. When their squad was approached by a producer who thought they’d be great for a show, they jumped at the chance. “We went in and pitched an idea and a few months later we had a show on the air. If it’s meant to go, it happens rather quickly,” explains Stewart. “We were all really excited. We didn’t know what the title was going to be at first so that was definitely an adjustment. We were just being ourselves. We didn’t realize it was going to be portrayed as ‘rich kids of Beverly Hills’, but that’s just what we were giving off without trying, and that’s what the network ended up seeing so we just went with it. It was definitely a bit of a shock at first but it’s turned out for the best.”
Being thrust into the limelight has been entertaining to watch for viewers, but trying at times for Stewart and her crew. Having finished their fourth season this summer, we’ve been treated to 35 episodes of their squabbles, their new friendships, and their swanky vacations. Although some of Stewart’s friendships with castmates didn’t make it through every season, the ones that remain are closer than ever. Stewart says, “Mine and Dorothy’s friendship has been pushed to the absolute limit and we’ve been able to come out of it even stronger. I think everyone just assumes that reality TV breaks people up, but that’s not always the case.”
Using the show as a platform Stewart has been able to catapult mental health awareness into the homes of millions of viewers. Growing up she saw first hand the effects mental health issues can have on a family when her brother was diagnosed with schizophrenia at 19. Getting involved with the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) program helped her learn to cope with the hard truths of mental illness and she now helps raise awareness by hosting events that aim to shatter the stereotype associated with the sickness. “It was important for me to finally feel informed and be able to talk about my brother without any shame or embarrassment,” says Stewart.
Her husband, Fitzpatrick, also one of the show’s stars, has continued to be a successful businessman throughout the show’s run. Stewart knew he was the one early on in their relationship, before the cameras started rolling. “On our third date I just knew he was going to be my husband and that my mom was going to like him,” Stewart recounts. “When you know, you know. I knew because nothing is awkward and nothing seems impossible with him.”
And that even includes planning a wedding on TV together. “It was definitely stressful. Looking back now I can’t believe how stressful it actually was. I got wrapped up in having a real wedding, but then we were also filming up until the very last second. It was beautiful in the end, but I can’t believe we managed to pull it off,” she admits. Surviving the well-publicized rough patch before the wedding just made them stronger. “I think most couples have that. You start to fight about every little thing and then you have the wedding, it’s beautiful, it feels like five minutes and then you’re married and it’s all exactly the way it was before.”
Now with some downtime between seasons it’s back to living life as normal for the newlyweds. Fitzpatrick is tending to his luxury real estate business, while Stewart is working on collaborations with brands like Touché Los Angeles designing fashion forward workout apparel, as well as exploring literary plans such as that book. (Her plans for a “tell-all” book about previous sexual escapades caused quite the scene and audience reaction when she brought it up on the show, which made it clear to Stewart that it was something that needed to be made.)
She plans to continue with her popular blog Boobs & Loubs as well. “I’ll always keep that going. It’s completely run by me so it goes in different stages. When I’m feeling really inspired the blog gets a lot of love, and when I’m not feeling inspired I just don’t pay attention to it. That’s why the audience likes it— it’s the real thing, it’s me. It’s not run by 15 different interns. It’s still very much my little baby.”
The reason Stewart is so popular is that her fans identify with her sense of strength. She’s the ringleader and the—surprisingly relatable—diva. She says what’s on her mind. Yes, she’s spunky and dramatic, but she realizes she’s on television—she realizes she’s entertainment. “There’s one side of me that gets shown more on the show. It’s the side that’s extremely neurotic. I definitely get very crazy sometimes, but I’m also mellow and concerned about other people. I’m sensitive and down to earth,” she explains. She doesn’t feel a need to watch herself on the show. “I’m not on television for myself, I’m on television for other people and hopefully some people get enjoyment out of that.”
Dealing with the haters that are inevitable with reality TV, she tries not to let them get to her. “People only show their hate via Instagram commenting. Some of them get a little overwhelming, but they’re all coming from people you don’t know, who you’re never going to meet, and you just have to remind yourself that these people wouldn’t say half of what they’re posting online to your face. So just ignore it.”
And that’s what she does. She accepts and moves on. She is who she is. “It’s important for people to be themselves and follow what they want to do. Everyone needs to focus on their own path and what they want to do and not try to find a reason not to do it. Believe in yourself as much as possible, even if it’s hard. You just have to keep going.”
*As seen on the November cover of Locale Magazine.