Remember the First Time Tinsley Mortimer Was a Reality TV Star?

A decade after her first foray into reality TV, RHONY star Tinsley Mortimer looks back on the making of High Society.

By Billy Nilles Apr 28, 2020 4:00 PMTags
Watch: Exclusive: Watch Tinsley Mortimer Get Engaged!

When Tinsley Mortimer joined The Real Housewives of New York City, she may not have known what she was what she was in for when it came to tussling with the likes of Ramona Singer, Dorinda Medley and Sonja Morgan, but she wasn't entirely out of her element. 

After all, she'd been down the reality TV road before.

A decade ago, for eight brief weeks, Tinsley was the star of a reality show all her own when High Society premiered on The CW in the spring of 2010. The show, which followed the lives of the socialite, her mother (and future RHONY fan-fave) Dale Mercer, sister Dabney Mercer and a handful of friends went off the air on April 28, 2010. And while it may not have earned a spot in the reality TV hall of fame, it did teach Tinsley a thing or two that she'd take with her when she joined the Bravo hit for its ninth season in 2017.

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"Being around so many cameras and producers isn't a normal way to live for most people, so having that experience before was helpful when I started Housewives," Tinsley told E! News via email. "Filming the show taught me that I had to learn to be resilient and determined when in circumstances I had little control over.  I knew that no matter what, I would be true to myself and not succumb to pressure to do something crazy or be filmed doing anything that made me uncomfortable just for ratings."

As Tinsley tells it, she learned quickly that, though fun, High Society wasn't exactly the show she thought she'd signed on to.

Jemal Countess/Getty Images

"Filming High Society was very exciting for me, since reality shows were relatively new, and no one really knew what the procedure would be like. Initially, the premise of the program was to show the 'red carpet' glamorous side of being a New York socialite. Since I had been called 'the It Girl' by many publications, I was chosen by the producers as the girl they wanted to highlight what being a 'socialite' was really all about," she explained. "They wanted to show the fun and glamour of the word, but also all the hard work entailed to be involved in so many charities, to be expected to make appearances all the time, as well as what was happening behind the red carpet in my life in the city. Of course, it was fun with the camera crews suddenly becoming a part of your life and being filmed all over New York City."

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She continued, "Unfortunately, the production took a turn that I did not see coming. Hoping to add some varied characters to the show, some people were cast as my 'friends' whom I did not know. They, in turn, were enjoying their moment in the spotlight and tried to convey my life as something that really involved them when it did not. This was difficult for me since suddenly my life was not my own and was being portrayed as something it was not."

(The series also counted socialites Devorah Rose and Paul Johnson Calderon among its cast.)

Despite the hiccups, Tinsley revealed that she actually wished she'd been able to channel a bit of her past self when she joined the Bravo franchise a few seasons back.

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"I look back at myself then and am so proud of my accomplishments and my strength and confidence. I think the Tinsley then could have really helped coach me better through the Housewives," the recently engaged reality star admitted. "The girl I was in High Society had far more confidence and awareness of who I was, what my accomplishments were, and reasons for being proud. Having just experienced a traumatic relationship in Palm Beach before joining the New York Housewives, I had forgotten who I was and who I had been and all the things I had done for which I should have been proud and happy. It took a few seasons to gain my confidence back and find myself again. The Tinsley then was a lot stronger and wiser. I would have loved High Society-era Tinsley to remind Housewives-era Tinsley who she really is inside."


That said, joining a long-running series did come with perks that only someone who'd tried to get their own show off the ground would truly be able to appreciate.

"Since we were a brand new show, the ratings and gaining the traction we needed to have another season was very stressful and put too much pressure on me," the new face of PETA's "Buy Shoes, Not Dogs" pet adoption campaign told us. "Joining a hit show in its ninth season with an already tested market and working with a great group of girls made the experience so much better."

Now in her fourth season on RHONY and on her way to a happy ending with fiance Scott Kluth, Tinsley's part of a small club of reality stars for whom success came after one or two earlier at bats. To find out who else is a member, scroll down!

Stassi Schroeder

Eight years before becoming a Bravolebrity with the debut of Vanderpump Rules, Stassi made her first foray into reality television when she competed alongside her father Mark, her step-mom Char, and her brother Hunter on the 2005 all-family season of The Amazing Race. Three years later, she competed on The N's Queen Bees, a reality show that took seven generally mean and rude young women and had them participate in challenges meant to teach them lessons about how they treat the people in their lives. She finished in sixth place.

Eva Marcille Sterling

13 years before the joined The Real Housewives of Atlanta—first as "friend of" in season 10 before earning a peach of her own the following year—a 19-year-old Eva competed in and won the third cycle of America's Next Top Model, which aired on UPN in 2004.

Kourtney Kardashian

Two years before her last name became one of the most famous in all of America with the 2007 debut of Keeping Up With the Kardashians, eldest sister Kourt appeared on another E! show, Filthy Rich: Cattle Drive. The 2005 series took 10 privileged children of celebrities and had them work on a Colorado cattle ranch.

Bethenny Frankel

Three years before she joined the cast of The Real Housewives of New York City in its inaugural season, Bethenny competed on the 2005 Martha Stewart-fronted spinoff of The Apprentice, where she finished as the runner-up. Working with producer Mark Burnett on the series would create a lasting relationship, however, as he is now producing her forthcoming HBO Max reality competition series, The Big Shot with Bethenny.

Denise Richards

Over a decade before she joined The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills for its ninth season, Denise starred in an E! series of her own. Denise Richards: It's Complicated aired for two seasons from 2008-09. The series showed the everyday lives of Denise, her daughters Sam and Lola (whom she shares with ex-husband Charlie Sheen), her father Irv and her married younger sister Michelle.

Tami Roman

17 years before she became a breakout cast member of VH1's Basketball Wives, which she joined for its second season in 2010, Tami was just one of seven strangers picked to live in a house and have her life taped to find out what happens when people stop being polite and start getting real in The Real World: Los Angeles, the second season of the groundbreaking MTV series that aired in 1993.

Mike "The Miz" Mizanin

Before launching his WWE career and subsequent reality series Miz & Mrs., which debuted on the USA Network in 2018, Mike was introduced to audiences in 2001 on The Real World: Back to New York.

Lisa Rinna

Four years before she started owning it on The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills in its fifth season, Lisa and her beloved hubby Harry Hamlin got a reality series of their very own. Harry Loves Lisa, which chronicled their lives as they juggled Hollywood careers while raising then-preteen daughters Delilah and Amelia, aired on TV Land in 2010.

Tinsley Mortimer

Before she joined The Real Housewives of New York City for season nine in 2017, the socialite toplined the short-lived CW reality series High Society, which the lives of her and her friends in the Big Apple, in 2010. It only lasted eight episodes. Dale Mercer, Tinsley's mom and RHONY fan-fave, was featured on the show, alongside her other daughter Dabney Mercer.

The Real Housewives of New York City airs Thursdays at 9 p.m. on Bravo. 

(E!, Bravo, NBC and the USA Network are all part of the NBCUniversal family.)