As the first Asian-American “Bravolebrity” in the “Real Housewives” universe, Crystal Kung Minkoff has brought some of her personal traditions to the “Real Housewives of Beverly Hills.”
During the season 11 finale, the direct descendant of Confucius hosted a traditional Chinese New Year party for castmates Garcelle Beauvais, Kathy Hilton, Lisa Rinna, Kyle Richards, Sutton Stracke, Dorit Kemsley, and Erika Jayne.
“I loved hosting Chinese New Year for the girls,” Crystal told The Post in an exclusive interview. “They let me know there was not going to be any drama because the party was so important to me, which I appreciated. This is my core, my life, and my culture. My family was there. The girls really got it and embraced the traditions.”
However, that was the calm before the storm — because season 12 produced some of the most dramatic and controversial moments in “Real Housewives” history, leading to Rinna announcing her departure from the cast earlier this month.
“It went a lot farther than I ever expected or wanted for anybody,” Crystal said of the meltdown that included Rinna referring to Hilton as “the devil.” “But I was really surprised that Lisa left.”
Still, she acknowledged, “‘Real Housewives’ is a revolving door, too. Many people that have been important have left and that gives room for other women to be on the show.”
That “revolving door” opened up for Crystal in 2021, when she replaced Denise Richards and Teddi Mellencamp on the show. The California native is married to director and producer Rob Minkoff, known for “The Lion King,” “Stuart Little” and “The Haunted Mansion.” The couple, married for 15 years, live in Bel Air and have two young children, Max and Zoe. Crystal’s also a businesswoman, having created the beverage company, Real Coco.
With only two seasons under her Prada belt, the relative newbie is still finding her footing on the show. One issue Crystal has been very open about is her lifelong struggle with food and bulimia, which she has said began when she was 11.
“For so long, I hated food. It was like the enemy to me. Every time I went on a diet, I was so focused on food and then I’d be like, ‘OK, I’m just not going to eat now.’ I was so desperate to find a solution that I decided to lean into food instead of pretending it doesn’t exist.”
To confront her disease, Crystal attended culinary school and started Real Coco. Today, the company has sold over 10 million bottles of coconut water which can be found at Costco.
“This has been part of my healing and recovery,” she said of her career as a food entrepreneur. “I learned to honor food rather than push it away. I’m not fully healed, but I don’t think anything will ever fully heal me. However, cooking has taken me to a positiveplace.”
Clearly, the topic is still not easy for her. On an episode of RHOBH, Crystal was visibly triggered by a tense conversation with Erika Jayne about eating disorders (including Jayne recommending laxatives).
“People asked me why I didn’t fight back,” Crystal told The Post of her decision to walk away during the confrontation. “When something is so painful for you, some people fight back. But that’s not my reaction. I clam up, which is what people saw. I can’t fight someone on this topic. I’m already fighting enough internally, so I’m not going to fight someone to try to understand what I’m going through.”
“My health and my recovery are key,” she emphasized. “Nothing else matters. The show doesn’t matter.”
That being said, Crystal wants to return to RHOBH. (Bravo has not yet announced the season 13 cast.) She’d like to reveal more of her personality, as she has been criticized by her castmates and friends for not “being herself” on camera.
“I’m actually a really bubbly person, and I have a lot of fun,” Crystal said. “Last season was so focused on the drama. The topics we talk about are pretty heavy. So, it’s hard to have fun in that environment. I’m not a performative person, so I’m not going to pretend to have fun. But if I do come back, I’d like to tap into my whole life.”
In terms of friendships with the cast, Crystal has known Hilton the longest but bonded the most with Beauvais and Stracke. She compares the RHOBH experience to joining a sorority — only to admit that she quit a sorority six months into her freshman year at the University of California, Irvine.
But she believes she has an important role to fulfill this time.
“It was extremely poignant for me to join the show,” Crystal said. “This was during the peak of anti-Asian hate crimes … what pushed me over the edge to saying yes was the opportunity to show my culture and my family in a positive way because it is a positive thing in my life — especially at a time that was so negative and polarizing for Asian Americans.”
And she’s making an impact, evidenced by the messages she gets from her fans: “Asian women and young girls say, ‘I can’t believe you’re on RHOBH. I can’t believe I can see someone that looks like me.’ At the same time, you can’t represent every single person who’s Asian. We’re not a homogenized group.”
As for her famous lineage, Crystal is indeed a 76th descendant of Confucius, the famous Chinese philosopher, and politician. A family tree in Confucius’ hometown of Qufu, China, traces and verifies all the descendants. Every generation, the register is updated, and for Crystal’s generation, it was the first time they allowed females to be added to the record. Notably, her father is buried in the Confucian cemetery, which is a great honor.
So, it’s no surprise that Crystal takes Lunar New Year traditions so seriously.
“One of the traditions is that you must clean your house before Chinese New Year,” she said. “It’s like our spring cleaning. On Chinese New Year, you can’t take anything out of your house, not even your trash. You can’t cut your hair because you’re cutting off your fortune. You can’t even wash your hair that day because you’re washing your fortune away. So, you prepare before.”
When she’s not filming, Crystal runs Real Coco, plays tennis, and hangs with the friends she made before RHOBH.
“I literally wear my Costco jeans every single day,” she said. “But when you’re on TV, you can’t wear Costco jeans every day. I have close friends who are stylists, and they help me with my wardrobe. I don’t call them my team because they’re my girlfriends. The person who does my hair, Jessica, I’ve known her since I was born. We grew up together and our parents are best friends. Being with my friends is very helpful when I’m stressed out about the show. They keep me grounded.”
Clearly, being a Real Housewife has not gone to Crystal’s head.
“Part of it feels like its own bubble,” she said. “And then the other part of it bleeds into real life, like when someone recognizes me from the show. I’m finding the balance, but it does take time. There’s no way I could fully understand the RHOBH experience like Kyle does 12 years later. I’m still learning.”
Photos: John Chapple for NY Post; Stylist: Star Burleigh/Celestine Agency; Assistant Stylist: Ali Gambino; Hair: Jessica Gordon-Carson Makeup: Jessica Delmonte
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