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Jessel Taank is making a splash on our TVs as a new cast member in season 14 of “The Real Housewives of New York,” but deciding to be a part of the hit franchise wasn’t easy. “Being Indian and from a private culture, it definitely took a lot of back-and-forth and a lot of conversations, but the more I spoke to NBC and Bravo and the powers that be, the more I was like, this could be an amazing opportunity because there’s never been an Indian in this position before,” she says. Taank is a fashion publicist and founder of PR firm The Know — and this is her first time appearing on a reality show. “I’m gonna show what a modern Indian woman first generation living in the United States looks like.”
Being the first-ever Indian-origin Housewife on Bravo inspired her tagline, which she says in the show’s opening sequence: “I always bring the flavor. It’s not my fault you don’t have any taste.” Coming up with the now-iconic line wasn’t easy. “Choosing a tagline is probably one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do,” she says. “How do you find one sentence that packages you as a person and then you share that with the entire country and the world?!”
Taank got recommendations from NBC and a few friends, but most suggestions had the word “spice” in it, a cliché attached to Indian culture that she didn’t want to spotlight. A good friend who happens to be a writer penned her official tagline, and Taank loves that it’s a subtle nod to her roots while also speaking to her connection with fashion and style. “I thought it was really fun. It’s a little bit cheeky and not cheesy — we already don’t like cheese,” she says.
But the tagline was just the beginning. Taank acknowledges there were also challenges behind the scenes, like feeling pressure to be perfect. “I think everyone’s so nervous and you have to be this perfect person and especially Indian women, you have to be this perfect version of what an Indian woman is,” she explains. “I can honestly say the pressure of all of that is so overwhelming, you can be real and authentic and transparent about what you’re going through. It’s OK.” Taank is pleasantly surprised by the support she’s been receiving from the South Asian community, noting that although the community are their biggest critics, they do come together and support each other.
Whether it’s speaking on her IVF journey or how her relationship with her husband is portrayed on the show, Taank has no regrets about being authentic to who she is. “If I can empower people with this platform and the show, that’s all I care about.” Taank has specifically endured criticism about the state of her marriage and sex life, including divorce speculation. Addressing the topic, she tells POPSUGAR: “A lot of people are questioning my husband, Pavit, and I right now . . . He has been the biggest pillar of strength for me for my family. I just need readers to know that, having a partner that’s supportive and is always by your side is the only reason I actually got through this in the way that I did.”
As someone who works in fashion, it’s no surprise that Taank’s personal style is one to emulate. But fans might be shocked to learn she frequents one of the most affordable fast-fashion retailers. “First of all, don’t sleep on Zara,” she says. “If you just need staples, I just go there; the white T-shirt, the denim jeans, it’s so good.” She also loves shopping at Revolve and Fwrd for more contemporary brands and special occasion dresses, and she’s currently loving the work of New York-based designer Ronny Kobo.
Her style philosophy involves embracing bold accessories, from handbags to jewelry. “Everything I do, I do it with a little bit of a twist, so it’s always accessorized to make it a statement, or my earrings will always be very flamboyant. I do think the accessorizing is key,” she says. Taank is never worried about being overdressed and points out that fashion in New York is all about the freedom of self-expression. “You can be truly who you want to be . . . and no one’s gonna judge you here.” And if they do, the critique better come from someone like “RHONY” castmate Jenna Lyons.
Lyons, a revered style icon and J.Crew’s former executive creative director and president, gave Taank pointed style advice in episode two. When Taank wore two logo-heavy items at once, Lyons quipped: “Wait, no. You can’t wear Alexander Wang on your back and Balenciaga on your bag.” Taank tells POPSUGAR she wasn’t offended. “[Lyons] was 100 percent right, I’m glad she checked me. Thank god she didn’t let me go out like that; it would have been over,” Taank says. “She has this style sensibility that truly is just like she can do no wrong in my eyes.”
Taank’s passion for fashion goes beyond the show, as she’s in the process of launching Oushq, a retail platform for South Asian and Middle Eastern designers. She wants to streamline the shopping process by offering standard sizing with optional tailoring services, two- to three-day shipping times, and a vast selection of up-and-coming designers. “Indian fashion is taking a global stage. We’re having a moment with Gaurav Gupta, who’s seen on every single red carpet right now. It’s mind-blowing, and he’s showed in Paris Couture Week. The same goes for Rahul Mishra dressing Zendaya.” Taank wants to showcase Indian fashion on a bigger scale and bring more designers to the US market, emphasizing that it’s not just a platform for South Asian and Middle Eastern shoppers. Some of her favorite designers and brands include Abhishek Sharma, Kamaali Couture, and Papa Don’t Preach by Shubhika Sharma.
When she’s not giving British banter on “RHONY,” she’s spending time with her husband and her adorable twin boys, as well as watching “Love Island.” Ahead, she shared her current favorite products, including a Givenchy diaper bag and a lightweight moisturizer.