Barnard ‘Rich Girl’ Postpones Real World with Reality TV

Jaime Gleicher, BC ’07, is smarter than she seems on TV. Barnard College student Gleicher and best friend forever Ally Hilfiger are the stars and producers of MTV’s new reality TV show, “Rich Girls.” The show documents their summer after high school graduation and Gleicher’s first week at Barnard. The young producers hoped that “Rich Girls” would show the real problems of the young and wealthy. But like all reality TV, nothing in Rich Girls seems real — especially their problems. Typical high school issues like rejection and failed fornication at the prom can be solved by trips to private homes in the British West Indies or Nantucket. And as if owning several vacation homes didn’t make the rich girls seem different already, the show’s website drives the message home with a section called “Reality Check: Us vs. Them.” Using puns like “Rich girls live on Park Ave. … We live in a trailer park,” the Reality Check demonstrates the disparity between the ultra-wealthy and MTV’s basic cable demographic. A wealthy Barnard student on national television whose only concerns appear to be fashion and boys reinforces a negative perception of the school, according to Kate Lundberg, BC ’06. “I don’t think it helps Barnard’s image,” she said. “People stereotype Barnard already as a bunch of rich girls.” The two have been involved in acting and producing for most of their lives. Gleicher was in Rent on Broadway through her work with Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS. When Hilfiger — daughter of fashion designer Tommy Hilfiger — was 13, she was in Abby’s Song on Broadway, and at 17 she produced Proud, a movie starring Ossie Davis. Thinking their own lifestyle to be interesting, they wanted to create a reality show about privileged New York City private school students. When they couldn’t find similarly well-off young people who were comfortable exposing their lives, Gleicher and Hilfiger turned the camera on themselves. They created a pilot by having camcorders follow them around while hanging out (read: “shopping”) in the city. Gleicher sent the pitch to MTV. The rest is reality TV history. As a producer, Gleicher has final approval over all eight episodes, but not over the web content that mocks her or the title that typecasts her and Hilfiger. Yet Gleicher is undeterred by MTV’s petty jokes. “I have to understand from a marketing standpoint what works,” she said. She also admitted that producing her life is bizarre, but tries not to take it too seriously: “[Rich Girls] is a comedy; it’s a lighthearted show.” Still, Gleicher believes her farcical show is deeper than its vapid title suggests. “This is a show, more so than about money, about friendships,” she said. Contrary to MTV’s “Reality Check,” Gleicher lives on a low floor of the Quad with her fellow Barnard first-years. She is more normal than MTV’s editing implies, except for the fact that she likes all of her classes. Outside of campus, Gleicher has been arranging all the public relations for her show, writing her first novel, and working with multiple sclerosis charities. Next semester she hopes to do musical theater. Even without a view of the park from her room, Gleicher says, “I love Barnard. I’m pretty obsessed with it, actually.”All of her floormates watch “Rich Girls,” but they see a distinction between the Gleicher MTV presents and the Gleicher with whom they share a bathroom. Brett Murphy, BC ’07, lives across the hall from Gleicher and watches her on TV every week. After getting to know Gleicher, Murphy said, “I don’t associate her with the girl on the show.” In the second episode of “Rich Girls,” Gleicher said that Benjamin Franklin invented the telephone, but her classmate and floormate, Sarah Waxman, BC ’07, thinks it was just a blunder. “I think she’s very intelligent and she has lot of things to add to class,” Waxman said.