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Joan on Her Small-Town Past, Passion for Charity, and the Advice She got From Lisa Rinna

Joan on Her Small-Town Past, Passion for Charity, and the Advice She got From Lisa Rinna


Growing up in a small Canadian prairie town of Wilcox, Saskatchewan didn’t stop Joan from dreaming of a big city life. Elegant and composed, she first made her mark as a model, eventually adding television host, producer, writer and humanitarian to her resume.

Even with her professional accomplishments, Joan is probably best known as the wife of Don Walker, CEO of Magna International, one of the richest men in Canada, which makes Joan a true power player in Toronto’s social scene. Though many in her position would be content with life as a just a housewife, Joan has dedicated her adult life to giving back.


You’re used to conducting interviews (with your YouTube series Red Carpet Diary), but how different does it feel now that you’re on the other side of the mic?

When you do a show like Red Carpet Diary, some of it really is about me too. I prepare the questions, I do my research, I need to be on – so I’ve translated that to be on [The Real Housewives], because it’s the same thing. I need to be on at all times.

Were you as in control when you were filming for The Real Housewives of Toronto?

I think some of the best scenes are when you don’t hold back, and when you kind of forget that the cameras are there, I think that’s when real life shines through.

Are you nervous at all about how you’re being portrayed?

I wouldn’t say nervous… the cameras are not with you 24/7 so they don’t show every single aspect of your life. I’m going into this with a very full life, and this show does not define me – it’s just one aspect of my life. I think my life is fuller than what’s shown on the show, and somehow I’d like to get that message across at some point.

You’ve been celebrated in your personal life for your charity work [Joan was awarded a Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Medal!]. Does the show touch on your philanthropy?

We touch on [some of] the charity work that I do. That is a huge aspect of my life. It’s really important for me to be a leader and an example [to show that] you can give back. It doesn’t matter if you have money, [it’s about] doing charitable acts, and showing leadership. [My family looks] at it globally and we support World Vision as much as we can.

It’s clear that giving back is important to you – do you think any of that has to do with your small town background and how you’ve found yourself in a very blessed position in your life now?


Absolutely. I grew up in a very, very small town, and the beauty of small towns is that you cannot pretend to be someone that you’re not. [Small town] people are transparent. Everybody knows everybody, so people always tell the truth about their lives, and people are honest. You get to know people that maybe in a big city you wouldn’t have as much in common with. You’re friends with people because they’re in the community and you learn to appreciate people for who they are and not what they have – and that’s something really beautiful.

And now you have the opportunity to be on this show and showcase where you’re coming from

Well I don’t know, because I haven’t seen [the full season], but what’s coming through for me on the show is all this…stuff. Like all [my] properties and things like that. People keep asking me interview questions like ‘who’s your favourite designer?’ But for me, life is about experiences, and that’s more important to me. This show was a gift, it was an opportunity that came along for a really interesting life experience, and that’s what it is.

Are you someone who would be just as happy without all the glitz and glamour?

It’s funny because in one of the scenes they ask me if I’m a diva, and yeah, probably, in some sense I am a diva, but I’m also very grounded. Some people accuse me of being too serious, but I’m assessing situations. Once I’m comfortable, then I’m a lot more fun-loving and open.

Are you nervous at all about watching this season back?


Umm, yes and no. I’m not [really] nervous. I was there, I know what to expect, the only variable is that I don’t know which shots made it in, and which shots didn’t.

Well your life in Muskoka is getting a lot of camera time. Are you a local celebrity there now because of your dock party?

You know what, there’s a lot of local celebrities there. I think I fall a little short on that scale. People do a lot of socializing in Muskoka and our party is just one highlight of the summer.

It is such a superstar destination now, have you ever crossed paths with some of your celebrity neighbours?

I’ve met Lisa Rinna a couple of times up there! I don’t know her well, but we do have mutual friends.

Did you ask Lisa Rinna for any advice about being a housewife?

I only had Harry [Hamlin]’s phone number for some reason, so I texted him and said ‘tell Lisa they finally announced who The Real Housewives of Toronto are, and I’m on the show’ and then she responded with ‘just don’t read your Twitter!’ She said congratulations, have fun, just don’t take it too seriously, and don’t read the negative.

It must be so nice to have that perspective from someone who’s done this and has gone through the same experience.

Hopefully next summer I’ll be able to see her and actually have a good long chat about it.

You mentioned social media – are you ready for the response you’ll receive there?

Okay, I am so bad at social media! All I do is check emails because I don’t really get it all yet.


How was your relationship with the other women before you went into the show?

Jana, Grego and I have been good friends for a long time, and this show has deepened that relationship, and I’m so thankful for that. Ann, I had been hearing about for years through our mutual friend Johnathan. Roxy I met once in Miami briefly, so I didn’t really know her at all. Kara, I had never met before and I hadn’t heard anything about her – and I can honestly say I still don’t really know Kara.

What else can viewers expect from you this season?

I think people will get to know me in one very specific way. Over the course of this season, the layers will peel off, and it’s much closer to the actual me at the end of the season, and that’s really important. I was kind of hoping that people would see [exactly] who I am, but you know, the world is just getting to know each of us. So it’s a good starting point. I’m being pigeonholed as a certain type of person, and it’s certainly not exactly who I am. So I’ll be happy once more is revealed and people can see that I have a big heart, that I am a kind person, that I try to give back, and that I’m a mom with a lot of responsibilities. I don’t want people to think that all I do is throw parties and go to a lot of lunches and dinners.

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