Heather Dubrow may be the star of the show, but you won’t hear it from her. Some call her “Fancy Pants” because her life drips in luxury, but after speaking to the Real Housewives of Orange County veteran, she’s as humble as they come. Dubrow somehow manages to balance being unapologetically confident and unwittingly gracious at the same time — a winning formula that gives the series the star power it so desperately needed.
Season 16 marks her first season back after a lengthy hiatus and already she’s knee-deep in the drama. The first few episodes introduced us to her sprawling home, her loveable modern family and a slightly confusing revelation about her long-time friend Nicole James. We chatted with Heather to get her take on being back in the cast, the status of her relationships, and clear up the questions that fans still have after the first few episodes.
How does it feel to be back?
HD: Surreal. I mean, honestly surreal. [Through] this whole experience, I keep going, “Wow. Am I really doing this? Did I really do that? Is this you? OK, here we are.”
What made you want to come back?
HD: I think that a lot of it had to do with the timing of things. People have asked me for the last five years, “Would you ever go back?” And I always said the same thing, like, “Never say never!” But I feel like I checked the box because I really felt that way. I really felt like I left well and that I didn’t have any unfinished business, so I didn’t see the point of going back. But when they called, first I laughed. It was like, “Yeah, I’m not doing that.”
And then Terry and I talked about it and we started talking about our kids and I was like, “You know, we’ve got these four kids and they’re all different genders and different sexualities and finding their places in the world.” When my daughter came out a couple of years ago as bisexual, the reaction was so great and with so many messages that I thought, wouldn’t it be cool if we could start having those conversations and maybe helping other families have those conversations if we show our version of what our normal family looks like on the show? So that honestly became a big impetus for us to come back.
That’s actually so interesting. So are we going to see more of your family life then?
HD: Yeah. There’s a couple of scenes on the show with the kids that are just so fantastic that even with all the drama and the nonsense that you go through on a show like this and how difficult it can be, I wouldn’t go back and undo it because of those.
I’m thinking back to last season and the fact that fans weren’t really happy with it. Was there this pressure that you had to make this season better for the fans?
HD: Well, I’m glad you didn’t ask me that before we started shooting! No, no. I don’t think I had the pressure of that because I felt like, I am one person. This is an ensemble show and anyone who thinks that they’re the ‘queen bee’ has totally lost it because we don’t exist without each other. And it’s not just the cast. It extends to the crew and the producers. It really is like the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.
And the truth is, as you know with shows like this, it’s authenticity that works, and that’s what the audience wants to see. So whether it’s like big, weird, crazy drama or dumb petty drama or just like a fun trip or whatever it is — if it’s real, you want to watch it because it’s in some way interesting, or it’s something that you can relate to in your life that you either want or you don’t want. And that’s what makes reality television interesting. So I really just felt like all I care about is that I’m my authentic self and that I am just going to be me. And I felt so relaxed coming into this season. Maybe too relaxed…
This is an ensemble show and anyone who thinks that they’re the ‘queen bee’ has totally lost it because we don’t exist without each other.
I think what people wanted to know from the first episode was, if Nicole was your friend, why didn’t she tell you that she sued your husband in the past? How did you not know?
HD: Well, I think that at this point, it’s either she thought we knew and didn’t want to talk about it, or she thought we didn’t know and she didn’t want to talk about it… I mean, it was almost 20 years ago and it was dropped. It was a lifetime ago. She’s a different person. And I feel like everyone’s allowed to have a fresh start. Honestly, in all of this, I just felt so bad for Nicole. I brought her on the show. I invited her to my house for a party, and all of a sudden, she’s being blindsided and attacked for something that happened 20 years ago. And I think I just felt so, so bad for her. I feel like what was important after all that happened was: why was this brought up, and why was this dug up, and why was this spread around?
I want to touch on your tagline, which is so great. “If you want to reach my standards, you’d better get a ladder.” Out of all of the Housewives on all of the shows, who wouldn’t need a ladder?
HD: Oh, lots of people, honestly. Yeah, there’s lots of them. You know what? I have to say I’m really proud to be part of the franchise. And I used to say this before, even after I left the show, because it’s a piece of pop culture history. It reminded me about that and it reminded me of what a sisterhood we really all are — we really are sorority sisters sharing this common bond. I’m very proud to be a part of it.