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My Unorthodox Life Season 2 Is a Master Class in Spin

Now that's how you handle a real-life scandal.
  • Julia Haart in My Unorthodox Life. (Photo: Netflix)
    Julia Haart in My Unorthodox Life. (Photo: Netflix)

    When news broke in February that My Unorthodox Life star Julia Haart had been removed as CEO of Elite World Group — just hours before she filed for divorce from Silvio Scaglia, with whom she co-owned EWG — it came with a juicy asterisk: Netflix’s cameras were reportedly rolling at the moment of her firing. “Julia took the cameras into the offices for a meeting and was blindsided,” a source told Page Six at the time. The statement effectively functioned as a Bat-Signal for reality TV fans: What could be better than watching a scandal of epic proportion unfold in real time?

    My Unorthodox Life Season 2 has fulfilled that promise, and then some. As a viewer, it’s fascinating to see this conflict unfold, particularly when other reality shows have been so reluctant to offer a window into the public controversies plaguing their stars. The novelty of it all makes My Unorthodox Life feel like a legitimate fly-on-the-wall experience, so much so that it’s possible to forget the wall is slanted, in the first place.

    While the first season focused primarily on Haart’s inspirational journey from a restrictive, ultra-Orthodox Jewish community to the fashion world, Season 2 finds her at a time of crisis. After two years of marriage, Haart and Scaglia are splitting up, but in the premiere, they commit to maintaining their business relationship by keeping their respective leadership positions in the company. “We’re building things together. We’ll continue to build,” Scaglia says over dinner (which, as a chyron helpfully explains, occurred on January 31, 2022). “What is the need to get divorced right now? What is the urgency?”

    For 10 days, Haart tells everyone in her orbit — from EWG’s CFO to her friends — that she and Scaglia are having “the simplest divorce in history.” Whether she actually believes they can make their unusual business arrangement work is irrelevant; by the time Scaglia drops the hammer and sends out a company-wide email announcing that Haart has been replaced as CEO, we’ve heard so much talk of a “copacetic” separation that his act of aggression feels like a shocking betrayal, a move that instantly wins viewers over to Haart’s cause.

    We don’t actually see Haart’s firing — if she did take cameras into the office for a meeting, as Page Six reported, it isn’t shown — but Episode 2 includes the immediate aftermath, as the mogul scrambles to call her lawyers and files for divorce. Meanwhile, her assistants and family members, almost all of whom are employed by EWG in some capacity, attempt to figure out if they still have jobs. It’s a frantic scene, backed by an ominous score: Haart’s penthouse apartment, itself a point of contention in the divorce, transforms into a war room, with daughter Miriam working simultaneously on three computers, and son Shlomo sharing the email he received while seated at his desk at the company headquarters.

    The chaotic pacing and dramatic music reinforce the sense that Team Haart was “completely blindsided” by Scaglia’s move (that phrase just so happens to be the title of Episode 3). Haart also appeals to viewers’s empathy by comparing the suddenly-contentious divorce to the experience of living in her oppressive ultra-Orthodox community. “I’m back in a position where a man is trying to take away everything I’ve worked for and built,” she says in a talking head interview. “I thought I got past that. And clearly I have not.”

    Typically, reality television's willingness to get involved in a sticky legal battle ends here. The Real Housewives of Salt Lake City’s cameras were rolling as police attempted to arrest cast member Jen Shah for her involvement in a telemarketing scheme (she has since pleaded guilty to federal fraud charges), but since then, Shah has followed her lawyers’s instructions and refused to address specifics of the case on air. Clearly given similar advice by her legal team, Kris Jenner shut down any real discussion of Blac Chyna’s defamation lawsuit on The Kardashians, and with cameras barred from the courtroom, viewers were left with vague statements about how “draining” the process was on the family.

    But Haart’s legal team clearly believes My Unorthodox Life to be an asset, as the fight over the company becomes the focus of the season, rather than something that must be awkwardly sidestepped. Only once do we see Haart tell the crew to stop rolling; otherwise, she welcomes the cameras in as she discusses the nitty-gritty details of her defense, and she uses her platform to plead her case while painting Scaglia as a vindictive, controlling spouse and business partner.

    When Scaglia files a lawsuit claiming Haart illegally removed $850,000 from a company account after she was fired, Haart immediately refutes the allegations, explaining that she has “documentation and proof” that Scaglia is lying (she claims she “withdrew from [parent company] Freedom Holding, not Elite World Group”). This pattern continues to play out over the course of the season: As the two hit each other with lawsuits and countersuits, Haart denies each allegation, laying out exactly how she believes Scaglia’s lawyers are misrepresenting her and her stake in the company. The dinner scene in the premiere thus becomes something Haart can point to as concrete evidence of Scaglia’s duplicity, a win for her reputation and her attorneys, who have argued that Haart’s firing was “romantic retaliation for her no longer wanting to remain his business partner.”

    Of course, because Netflix and the producers of My Unorthodox Life (including Haart, who’s an executive producer) don’t want to get sued, a few of the episodes end with updates about the allegations referenced within. At the end of Episodes 4 and 6, plain black slides with white text explain that Scaglia has scored key wins in their legal battle, with a judge in Delaware ruling that documents show Haart is not an equal owner of Freedom Holding and Elite World Group (Haart has appealed and filed a separate lawsuit accusing Scaglia of fraud). But after nine episodes of PR maneuvering, these bare, no-frills slides feel like an afterthought. The cards may be stacked against Julia Haart in her civil suit, but thanks to My Unorthodox Life, she’s already won in the court of public opinion. For a reality TV star, that’s the only arena that matters.

    My Unorthodox Life Season 2 is now streaming on Netflix.

    Claire Spellberg Lustig is the Senior Editor at Primetimer and a scholar of The View. Follow her on Twitter at @c_spellberg.

    TOPICS: My Unorthodox Life, Netflix, Julia Haart, Silvio Scaglia, Lawsuits, Reality TV