'Real Housewives of Orange County' star Vicki Gunvalson talks 'toxic' Kelly Dodd, not liking new cast members and her legacy
Vicki Gunvalson doesn't have time for unnecessary drama this year.
The "OG of the OC" is the only remaining cast member on "The Real Housewives of Orange County," currently in its thirteenth season, and it's clear that she takes pride in that fact. Gunvalson recently stopped by AOL to talk about all things season 13, and she referred to "RHOC" as "my show" on multiple occasions. Not only that, but she has a low tolerance for new cast members, who she said think "that to stay on [the show], they need to create drama."
It's her fellow legacy castmates that she truly cares about: She's rehabbed friendships with Shannon Beador and Tamra Judge and seems committed to maintaining those bonds, saying that she doesn't want to "do anything to destroy" those relationships.
Her biggest beef this season has been with Kelly Dodd, who she described as "going through a lot of struggles" and "so out of line."
Check out our full conversation with Vicki Gunvalson below:
We're well into this season of "Real Housewives of Orange County," which has been fairly positive for you so far. How are you holding up so far?
Every year brings a new set of girls and drama, but I’m in a really good place personally in my life. My business is growing, I’m dating a wonderful man, my family is healthy and good, so I’m at a good place. It’s the other women that always try to stir up issues. I’m also in a really good place with Tamra and Shannon -- and not so much with Kelly right now. She’s going through a lot of struggles, which is very apparent through how she lashes out at people, so I just want to be there for her when she wants to be friends again. I’m not going to reach out to her right now, because she’s just so out of line. I don’t need toxic people in my life right now. I need quality people. She’ll come around when she realizes that I didn’t do anything.
It's fun to see you, Shannon and Tamra in a good place after last year’s emotional reunion. What was it like coming off of last season on that note?
It was actually perfect the way it ended, because we needed to apologize, forgive and move on. I asked Tamra in the hallway, "Are we okay?" and she said, "Yeah, we’re fine." That was it. We have never talked about it since. We’re good. She said a couple of things in the last episode that I’m not too fond of, but I asked her and called her out on it. We’re in a good place, and I have to do my part and they have to do their part.
See photos of Vicki Gunvalson in recent years:
Again, that was the last thing we saw before this season. Do you also come into this season with a different mentality because of that?
The fortunate part is that we had four months before we started filming again, so we were able to see each other and talk about where we were at in each other’s lives. Then we started out with going to Mexico, which I loved. It was the tres amigos! It’s so much fun and it was the perfect way to start with being friends again. We didn’t go backwards. That’s what I said to them, "Let’s not go backwards!"
The Mexico trip was fun to watch, but you didn’t join them when they stripped down for the hot tub! Does that show growth on your part?
It does show growth, and [one of my biggest clients] said, "Oh, by the way: Good decision on that!" I mean, that could’ve gotten my license pulled. I rely on my business as my bread, so I have to always maintain what my clients and carriers would want to see. I have 300 insurance companies that I work with, and they’re not wanting to see a 56-year-old woman naked. Well, maybe later, but you just have to grow and learn from your past. [Laughs]
Is your business always in the back of your mind when you're filming?
Always. I have two birds on my shoulder: One is like, “take it off!” and the other is like, “don’t get naked!”
It must be difficult having to balance between two careers.
And they’re totally different! It’s harder than anybody could ever imagine. You know, Tamra can do things: She goes to Cut Fitness, and she works out and she can get naked without worrying about losing her business. I can’t. I have a very conservative clientele, I’m in a male-dominated industry and I’ve been doing this for 30 years. I’m not going to do something at this time in my life to mess that up, so I have to always remember what my clients think. Kind of like, "What Would Jesus Do?" but "What Would My Insurance Companies Think?" I’m always thinking that. Always. Tamra thinks I’m boring, and I’m like, "No, I’ve just matured!"
You mentioned that you're not in a good place with Kelly. Talk to me about watching that conversation about your boyfriend's comments in Page Six and how that went down.
[My boyfriend] Steve [Lodge] and I were actually very confused about that. We’re confused why she would ever be upset about that. He was clarifying an article that was printed incorrectly, stating that I had set her ex-husband up with my friend. He just clarified it. That’s it. He never bashed her or talked bad about her. He respected Kelly at that time, and it was never something intended to hurt her. Because she decided to divorce Michael doesn’t mean that we can’t decide to be friends with him. Quite frankly, he has been a better friend to us than she has been.
It's almost like there’s a misunderstanding, and that she thinks you should have loyalty to her over him...
I have loyalty to Kelly! We’re friends with both of them, that’s it. We see them every now and then, that’s it. I haven’t seen Michael since July and neither has Steve. It’s not like he’s over every day. Michael’s dating somebody new now. We just want Michael happy, and we just want Kelly to be happy. But she’s doing it to stay relevant and create drama. It doesn’t make sense to me. Why are we fighting? What are we fighting about? She then comes into the party saying, “I want to talk to Steve,” and I was like, “He doesn’t want to talk tonight." The minute I said that, she went to go talk to him. I think she was trying to cause problems. I don’t film a TV show to try to cause problems. She went in with her mind set on creating a problem.
Let's switch gears to talk about the new additions to the cast this season, Emily and Gina. How do you think that they're doing so far?
Normally I don’t like the new Housewives, and I have to say that at first I thought they didn’t fit in. I was hoping to get closer with them this year and I didn’t. As people, I like them, but I don’t know them very well. I’ve been very busy with my own personal life. I don’t really reach out to girlfriends a lot while we’re off filming or even during. Filming takes up a lot of my time. I’m not a big girls’ girl.
As the OG of the OC, do you have any advice that you routinely give to the new ladies?
The first time I met them was on camera. Beyond that I was like, "Don’t be fake. Don’t yell when you don’t need to yell. Be kind. Let’s be friends. Let’s show that girls can travel and have fun together and build each other up." The problem now is that they’ve all watched the show [before joining], and they’ve all watched the other franchises. When I started my franchise -- my show! -- we didn’t talk about or even think about what to do, because we were filming our reality. Now these women are coming on saying they’ve been watching for 13 years and thinking that to stay on [the show] they need to create drama. But, actually, they don’t. They just need to be themselves. You need to be kind and nice and be able to whoop it up! And you need to work. You need to have substance.
So, do you think that it makes sense to bring back former cast members instead of adding completely new faces? It worked well when Bethenny Frankel returned to "RHONY."
I don’t know. I really like Gina. She was a great addition to the cast. She works. She knows that work ethic. She’s a single mom, she’s opinionated and she’s not drama. Some of these women that have come onto my show are throwing up too much drama for no reason. This whole thing with Kelly? I don’t know what she’s doing. I’m over it. I’m laughing about it. Really, what are you saying now? Steve and I live together, we go home and watch and we go, “Really?” Michael would never treat us like that. If I could give the ladies advice, [it would be] to be authentic. Don’t be fake. Kelly right now is not being authentic.
As we've mentioned multiple times, you're the original "RHOC" cast member. If you were to put together an all-star season with Housewives from all cities, who would you include?
Of course it would be me. Always Ramona. Somebody from Beverly Hills ... I would probably say Lisa [Vanderpump], because Lisa and I are of the same mindset. We’re legacies of the franchise. New Jersey, I like all the gals. I'm probably the closest with Melissa Gorga. I just think we’re all great. The fact of the matter is that we’ve put our life out there for the public, and you better hope they like us. Or else you’re off the show. I’ve been fortunate that the viewers love me, and I love them. I’m a Bravo girl. I’m loyal. When I have to film, I work hard. I don’t play around. This is a job and this is also my life.
What keeps you going?
Well, I love it, first of all. One of my friends told me that fame is like a drug: The more you have it, the more you want it. And [fame is] a good drug and a bad drug, but for me it’s inspiring to see how many people that I’ve inspired.
How do you prevent fame from becoming a bad thing, though? Surely it's a slippery slope...
It’s a slippery slope. I work every day. I don’t look at this job as being my end-all. I still go to work 8 to 10 hours a day, and I still have to work the same way that a lot of people do. A lot of these girls that I film with don’t work. I’m at a different place in my life and always have been. I’ve never been privileged to sit at home and have a man take care of me. Nor would I want to. I don’t really understand how people don’t work. Maybe they’ve got enough money where they don't have to, but what do they do all day? It’s hard to be friends with women like that. That’s what happens to me with this show: They put me on with women that don’t work, and I don’t get it. They feel entitled to their husband’s paychecks. They shouldn’t be. That’s what keeps me grounded and healthy.
What can you tease for us about the rest of this season?
Well, I got a facelift! It’s one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. I got all my fillers out, and my neck tightened. You’ll see that surgery. You’ll see us go to Jamaica, and there was little bit of a blow-up there, but thank god I wasn’t involved in it. I think you’ll just see Tamra, Shannon and I cement our relationship. We are carrying on our fun by being there for each other. That, to me, is extremely valuable and important, that I maintain my integrity with this friendship and that I don’t do anything to destroy it.
"The Real Housewives of Orange County" airs on Mondays at 9 pm EST on Bravo
This interview has been edited and condensed.