Randi Zuckerberg has been awarded a Bravo reality show, a show that will follow young people trying to become "Silicon Valley's next great success stories." The mere existence of the program shows how the myth of golden opportunity in the Valley is, once again, far surpassing reality. But beyond that, the show's a clear signal that ridiculous, highly public interpersonal drama will continue to swirl around the Zuckerberg clan for some time to come.
It's been a tumultuous eight months for Zuckerberg. She parted ways, professionally speaking, with her brother Mark in August, when she left her marketing job at his company Facebook after six years, basically her whole professional life. The ostensible reason was to launch a media startup, but it soon became clear that she had hit a wall within Facebook. Randi Zuckerberg's love for cameras had not always gone over well at the social network, \ she was being marginalized within the company ("it was a little frustrating," she told the New York Times), and some of the video interviews she conducted under the Facebook banner were unauthorized, or, as she told the Times, "a little rogue."
Her departure looked as much like a difficult parting of ways with her brother, to whom she and sister Arielle were rumored not to be speaking, as a chance to start her own company. Zuckerberg, for her part, told us she never stopped talking to her brother and hosted him for Rosh Hashanah. But no one denies they went their separate ways work-wise.
Then last month came a furious row between Zuckerberg and one of her longtime friends, fellow media entrepreneur (and fellow camera-light moth) Julia Allison. The fight centered on the pair's annual joint birthday party in late February which, a mole told us earlier that month, Zuckerberg's friends/family were determined to extract her from:
Randi Zuckerberg told Julia Allison that she wouldn't be having a joint birthday party with her this year, even though it has been tradition for the two for the past several years. When push came to shove, however, Randi changed her mind and offered to host a catered dinner on their birthday (Feb 28) at her new house in Los Altos. A guest list was drawn up and invitations were sent out.
A few days ago, however, Julia received a phone call from Randi's husband telling her the party was off. Apparently he had planned a surprise party for Randi in Las Vegas, and said in no uncertain terms would Julia be part of the event - her name would not be included on the cake, sung during "Happy Birthday," etc. When informed that the invites had already been sent out, he still wouldn't budge, telling her to figure it out herself...and then sent out the email below [detailing plans to surprise Randi with a private jet flight to Vegas, dinner at the Palms, and a series of "shows/musical events" into the wee hours].
"Randi is furious with me," Allison scolded us after we apparently exacerbated the situation by sending Zuckerberg an insufficiently vague question about the party and wondered, entirely speculatively, whether Allison might have somehow been responsible for the information leak. (She later wondered whether one of her close friends, a party eavesdropper, or perhaps a hacker, had sent us the details of her conversation with Zuckerberg's husband.)
Hiccups in a rich girl's surprise birthday party are hardly world-changing tremors, but they are excellent fodder for reality television. So it's hard not to wonder if all of Zuckerberg's drama helped prompt Bravo's announcement that she'd lead a show on how, in the words of one participant, "being a geek is like being the new rock star." (Allison is launching her own Bravo show , sans Zuckerberg, despite a long history of mutual camera-sharing. With an eight-episode commitment under her belt, she betrays no signs of bitterness, telling us, "I'm thrilled for her and I cannot WAIT to watch the show! It's about time cable had a series about Silicon Valley, the most fascinating, brilliant, eccentric place in America. Plus, with Randi on board, you know it's legit.")
While brother Mark famously launched a PR blitz against the movie about his many interpersonal dramas, Zuckerberg clearly hasn't hesitated to lean in to her show, tweeting that she's "excited to work with Bravo" and will be "going to Hollywood" . Her co-stars are already being eagerly dissected online (summary: you probably haven't heard of them).
Zuckerberg is hardly the only tech player drawn in to the world of global video celebrity. Tech is more dependent than ever on advertising and other media, and increasingly fixated on developing relationships with celebrities, thanks to products like Twitter and Google Plus and Facebook and Foursquare and so on. It's worth noting when the industry threatens to become better at talking about at showing how brilliant it is at making innovative, time-saving products than actually making said products and actually saving anyone's time. This is just such a time, and Randi Zuckerberg's reality show is just one of the more jaw-dropping signs.