Field Guide to the Richards Sisters

I initially got introduced to The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills and the Richards sisters during Season 1 by a roommate who was addicted to any and all Bravo programming. I’d seen bits of other Real Housewives installments, but never really got the obsession. It just seemed like a bunch of bottle-blondes my mom’s age failing at trying to act younger and looking unnaturally tan in the process. But Beverly Hills was different. It had those same elements as the other series, but it was so much glossier. I need a little gloss with my reality television–I’m a person who still mourns 8th and Ocean getting canceled after one season. From Camille being Kelsey Grammer’s wife to Adrienne owning a sports team to the size of Lisa’s house, everything on Beverly Hills was initially a little more lavish.

The Richards sisters might not have had sitcom star husbands or basketball teams, but they quickly became a driving force for drama on the show. As numerous cast members have come and gone, Kim and Kyle remain at the center of the action. With the reunion airing tonight, let’s learn a little more about the Richards sisters below.


Kyle Richards Umansky and Kimberly Richards. Like the Kardashians, the Richards family apparently had an affinity for alliterative naming. Kyle and Kim are the daughters of Kenneth and Kathleen and younger sisters to Kathy Richards Hilton (mother of Paris for anyone out there who has been without television or internet for the past decade).


Kyle and older sister Kim were born five years apart to parents who evidently had Hollywood hopes for their children. When I started watching the show, I kept getting annoyed by Kyle’s incessant mentions of ‘what it’s like to be a child star.’ I was skeptical about the stories of bygone fame that Kyle kept pushing. However, after I did a little digging, I realized Richards sisters were legitimate child stars. Or at least Kim definitely was. Kim was essentially the Lindsay Lohan of her day, and sadly, may have some of the same emotional baggage from child stardom.

Kim first appeared on camera at four months old in a diaper commercial. She rose in popularity as the star of several Disney movies like Escape to Witch Mountain. Kim continued to act in television shows throughout the eighties until she went into semi-retirement at twenty-six to raise her kids. Twenty-six sounds like a young age to retire, but after being the primary breadwinner for her family at such a young age, anyone would probably want a break.

Kyle acted as well, but didn’t achieve quite the same level of child stardom as Kim. Her biggest claim to fame was playing an adopted child on Little House on the Prairie during the late ‘70s, early ‘80s. Kyle kept up with it longer than Kim as well. She continued to try acting well into adulthood. She even had a minor recurring role on ER as a nurse. (Side note: I’m shocked Kyle never tried to make it as a hair commercial model. Those long, long locks have some serious sheen. I’m not sure I believe her claims that she just uses Pantene.)

Real Housewives, though, is where Kyle became nationally known. Despite once saying on Good Morning America that she ‘absolutely’ regretted going on the show, I get the sense that she enjoys finally experiencing the level of fame her sisters did. Also, I know she’s playing herself, but she’s really good at playing the part. Plus, without Kyle’s appearance on Real Housewives, we would never have one of the greatest scenes in reality television history: the appearance of psychic Allison DuBois and her electronic cigarette. Has any other reality television personality in history been as bold as Allison to say something like, ‘I can tell you when she will die, and what will happen to her family. I love that about me!’ I don’t think so. Thank you, Kyle, for making Camille, and, thereby, Allison despise you enough at the time to make that moment possible.

Identifying Characteristics:

As the pair of sisters on the show, Kim and Kyle are frequently associated with their tumultuous sibling relationship. They do seem to love each other, but screaming at each other on national television about sobriety and substance abuse probably isn’t exactly the best recipe to strengthen the sisterly bond. However, at least they keep trying to work on it. Kim and Kyle even appeared on Stars in Danger: The High Dive to give themselves an opportunity to work on their relationship and support each other through a challenge. Look, I don’t know why there is not one, but two celebrity diving shows, but the Richards sisters are entitled to any form of therapy that they feel works. I bet it was nice for the two of them to feel like they could cry wearing something other than a cocktail dress and airbrush makeup for a change.

However, if you prefer cocktail dress crying, you’ll get your chance when Real Housewives airs part two of the Reunion tonight.

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