The Real Housewives is an ensemble franchise, but Tamra Judge has managed to take center stage in Orange County.
She's a mom. She's a fitness nut. She's deeply opinionated. She's a friend. She's an enemy. She's uncut and hilarious.
She's one hell of a reality star.
The Bravo personality, who joined the OC Housewives in 2007, is far from perfect, but that's part of her appeal to us.
Through good times and bad, and at her highs as well as her low points, the mother of four is, well, as real as it gets.
Below are some of the facets that make Tamra a serious candidate for Bravo's GOAT among fans and castmates alike.
The Jury Has Reached a Verdict
Tamra Judge is a deeply polarizing figure, with devoted fans and passionate haters and people who go back and forth depending upon what she did last. You don't get that kind of effect by being boring. Tamra is a handful and she knows it. From day one, she's been absolutely incomparable.
The Queen of Meme
Tamra Judge is known far and wide. Even people who have never seen Real Housewives in their lives and wouldn't guess her name know her face -- and voice. Why? Because she's a meme. At a Reunion, Vicki Gunvalson asked: "How do you know what's good for me?" after Tamra offered some unsolicited relationship advice. Tamra replied by screaming: "THAT'S MY OPINION!" Andy and Shannon were both visibly startled. Well, back when Vine was a thing, the clip was uploaded to Vine, and since then, it has become an unflattering meme.
When the Housewives went to Jamaica, Shannon was not having a good time. Actually, no one was, because the AC wasn't working. They were cooking alive, and Shannon exploded. Her "meltdown" was nothing beside what her friend, Tamra, had to say. She screamed right back.
The Tres Amigas
While hanging out together in Mexico, Vicki and Shannon and Tamra -- all of whom had previously taken turns being at each other's throats -- celebrated their friendship. What's more, the trio adopted a name for themselves: The Tres Amigas. The three of them have been the targets of criticism over their solidarity, accused of "dogpiling" upon mutual enemies. Others admire that they worked through issues that once seemed insurmountable.
A Fountain of Wisdom
You know, we'd never quite thought of it this way. Some might say that Tamra has focused a bit too much on boobs when she might have been "practicing kindness" or whatever, but a feud is a feud. It's one thing to size someone up and target their biggest weakness. It's another to point out something that most would consider a strength and use that to destroy them forever.
Endless Supply of Nicknames
Seriously, Alexis Bellino may have been in a miserable marriage, but she was an affluent, gorgeous woman ... until she got on Tamra's bad side. Now, for the rest of her life, she'll be "Jesus Jugs." In the autumn of 2018, Alexis returned to the show to chat with Emily Simpson, and fans asked if she would return. Her answer? Basically, Tamra was too much to deal with for it to be worth a hefty salary to return. Remind us to never get on Tamra's bad side.
A story arc that began with the infamous "train" rumor about Kelly Dodd led to Braunwyn Windham-Burke revealing that she's done plenty of "girl-on-girl" during threesomes with her husband on special days. Well, that led producers to ask Braunwyn which Housewife she'd most want to be her marital "plus one," so to speak, and she cut off the question, immediately blurting out "Tamra." Later, her husband observed that she had distracted herself talking about how hot Tamra is. Tamra was flattered. All of this led to the two making out at Shannon's birthday party. Lap-sitting, embracing, and really going at it -- there was even some boob stuff. Not the best restaurant behavior, but we all know that when the Real Housewives cameras are rolling, there are different rules.
The Staunchest of Allies
During what was supposed to be a peaceful, spiritually healing retreat to Arizona, Kelly was just not vibing with her castmates. She pulled a prank on Shannon, who was taking the adventure VERY seriously, by bonking her on the head through a metal bowl ... with a mallet. Tamra was supportive of Shannon, even though she acknowleged that Shannon can blow things out of proportion. She even rode with Shannon to urget care. Supporting your friend is one thing, but riding with her when you're not even sure that it's a real emergency is another.
She Does Not Mince Words
Being reserved, biting your tongue, and having a filter are very virtuous things ... if you're a normal person. For a Real Housewife, that sort of thing will bore your fanbase and kill your reality career. With Vicki's demotion to Friend of the Housewives in 2019, Tamra became the longest-running Full Housewife on the show -- and it wasn't by accident. She will speak, or scream, her thoughts at anyone.
It's Not Just About Who's on the Show
Tamra Judge snapped this selfie with Meghan King Edmonds, most likely at or shortly after Shannon Beador's birthday party in the first half of 2016. Meghan's not a reality star anymore, but Tamra doesn't need for every selfie to somehow boost her clout. She just likes having a good time with friends and immortalizing happy moments in photographs.
She Knows How to Have Fun
Tamra is not actually a big drinker, so when she does, it doesn't take much to make her the life of the party. Yes, even health nuts like Tamra know how to unwind every now and then. if Tamra were a one-trick pony, she wouldn't have lasted this long on the show.
Mistakes Sometimes Are Made
Her eldest son, Ryan Vieth, is a troubled man. Tamra is the first to acknowledge that she had him at 18 and was thoroughly unprepared to be a mother, being a kid herself. She worked six days a week just to make ends meet, which meant that he spent a lot of time for the first dozen years of his life at his grandmother's. Getting structure just as he entered his teens was unpleasant culture shock. Now, Tamra laments that Ryan is part of what she calls the "Trump cult," where he has poured his identity and self worth into one of the most justifiably hated men in the world. Tamra is still trying to help her son get his life and emotional well being on track.
There Are Also Some Regrets
She has publicly stated that she would give up The Real Housewives of Orange County forever if it meant that she could repair her relationship with her daughter, Sidney Barney. Why hasn't she quit the show? Because her issues with Sidney go much deeper than that. All children have every right to cut off contact with a parent, and Sidney remains angry with how her mother behaved during the divorce and with how her mother used photos of her on social media. Tamra has expressed deep regrets for the state of their relationship, but also no longer uses her estrangement from Sidney as a talking point. That's growth.
That Will Certainly Stand Out
This line could have aged better. Obviously, Tamra isn't a trans man, despite her words in this gif. Instead, she's just explaining why she sometimes clashes with her fellow castmates or feels left out of some of their concerns. She's sporty, she's athletic, and she can be a hothead.
Tamra always knows how to get her point across. Is she known for yelling? Of course. But you don't have to have mastered ASL to grasp her meaning in this gif, that's for sure.
You don't hear "dingbat" every day. Well, you might if you're Alexis Bellino and Tamra's zingers haunt your thoughts every night as you go to sleep. For an insult to be memorable, it needs to have just the right vibe, and Tamra knows how to nail it.
A Great "Judge" of Character
Sure, Tamra has made some missteps in her own life, but when she's looking at other people's relationships, she sees with crystal clarity. If your man is lying to you and to everyone else, Tamra will announce it to the world.
She's Her Own Fact-Checker
if you blame Tamra for something that she didn't do, she will let you know about it. Tamra will do it on the show, she will do it on social media, she will do it in person, she will sneak into your room at night and you'll wake up with her standing there telling you that you misquoted her. Okay, we're kidding about that last bit. Probably. Mostly.
She DOES Do Feelings ... Sometimes
Tamra, shown here hugging her younger son, Spencer Barney, has a wider emotional range than she lets on. Her older son, Ryan, has said "we don't do feelings" of both himself and his mother, but it's clear that Tamra, at least, has had some emotional growth since her twenties.
She's SUCh a Proud Mom
Tamra works hard to co-parent with her ex, Simon Barney, even though that divorce was a less than happy one. This is definitely for the benefit of their shared children -- like young Sophia.
Words cannot describe how intense and cutting this line is. Biologically possible? No. An intense and deeply memorable insult that people will try but fail to accurately reproduce in everyday discussions for years to come? Absolutely.
It's Good to Have a Healthy Sense of Self-Worth
Some people can become overwhelmed by low self-esteem, letting the haters get to them over Twitter and Instagram. Not Tamra. She may not lash out at commenters like she does at he castmates, but she doesn't let them keep her down.
Always There For a Sick Burn
To be fair, a lot of Real Housewives end up combining cosmetic procedures and makeup in such a way that they look like extremely talented contestants on RuPaul's Drag Race. Tamra could be talking about anyone here, which is part of the beauty of it.
The Loving Wife
Eddie Judge may not be Tamra's first husband by any means, but they seem very happy together. Both share an intense passion for fitness and for each other. In 2019, Tamra even let it slip that they had at least discussed the idea of adopting a child.
Strong in the Face of Crisis
Tamra did not falter in her support for Eddie after it was discovered that he had a heart condition known as a-fib that needed to be corrected by a doctor, and may need correction again in the future. It could hurt Eddie's professional life, but Tamra stayed by his side.
She Serves Face
A key element of any successful reality star is the ability to make facial expressions that play to the camera. It's how you get asked back to do commentary on seasons where you don't even star. It's how you become a meme. And it's how you keep audiences entertained. Tamra knows how to make her expressions pop when those cameras are rolling.
By The Way?
This right here might be the best that her hair has ever looked. In past seasons it looked a little ... pageanty. Season 14 shows Tamra with an A+ hair game. We don't normally say this about Real Housewives, but ... wouldn't it be cool to see her pull off an undercut? We bet that she could.
Tamra Helps Her Friends
When Emily Simpson resolved to lose weight (she'd been overeating, perhaps because of her terrible husband, Shane), she spoke to Tamra -- an important first step. Tamra and Eddie invited her to step on a scale and get her BMI analyzed. (Good news: for Emily's age, she's considered in the healthy/normal range even by the widely debunked junk science of BMI). Tamra gave her a lot of emotional support and Eddie spoke to her at length about nutrition.
This Epic Moment
First shown in the Season 14 midseason trailer, the Tres Amigas are just hanging out together when Shannon's hair abruptly catches fire. Is this moment about Tamra? No. But her barely-in-the-frame facial expression is already almost as interesting as Shannon's mortifying candescence.
Love her? Hate her? Are you one of the ones who can't make up their mind and just goes off of whatever she said or did last? No matter your stance on Tamra, you're not alone. She's a beast -- take that as you will.