Tamra Judge had a lot of serious things going on in her life this season of "The Real Housewives of Orange County," but if her husband's successful recent surgery is any indication -- things are looking up.
Though she called this current thirteenth season "harder to watch" that others in years past, going into it with a better relationship with Vicki Gunvalson and helping pal Shannon Beador get back on track are things that made the experience much more positive for her.
AOL's Gibson Johns recently caught up with the "Real Housewives" vet to talk about all things season 13, what really goes down in Jamaica with Shannon, how she's changed over the years and why she thinks the show should have "no more new girls."
Read our conversation with Tamra Judge below:
First of all, how is Eddie doing?
He’s had seven heart procedures all together in the past year, been on medication for a year, he had his last ablation a month ago and we think it worked. We’re not sure, because it takes three months for the heart to heal, but as far as not having any symptoms, this is the first time he hasn’t had any after a procedure. They really went into an area of a heart that they didn’t want to go into, but they had ablated almost his entire heart at this point and they knew that if he was having these misfires coming from his appendage then that would probably be the end of it. Now, he’ll probably have to have another procedure to close the appendage, but the big picture is he’s slowly getting back to his life. I was like, "You know, babe? I feel like you’ve been pregnant for nine months ... we both gained weight!"
Does watching the show while something so serious is going on in your life make the experience of reliving it different?
It’s still about the same. It’s been embarrassing at times -- aka Mexico -- but I could see where my mind space was back then. I was going through a really hard time and, when I go through a hard time, I just get angry. I could see people saying things, but I was just going through some crap. It’s been harder to watch myself this year than in the past few years, because everything that could possibly go wrong was going wrong. Our dog got cancer, our guinea pig died, I broke my foot… it was one thing after another. Trying to film on top of that was not easy.
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Did it make it easier that you and Vicki Gunvalson went into the season on a better note?
There was less stress going into the season with good relationships. The thing is, I like everybody. When new people come in, I always like them until I don’t like them. Shannon is the opposite. I wouldn’t say I was best friends with either [Emily Simpson or Gina Kirschenheiter], but I went in knowing them and was friendly with them. I still like Gina!
One of my friend's recently said that everyone loves you and fights over being your best friend. Would you agree with that?
I feel like this: When people get fired from the show, they think it’s my fault! I apparently have this "in: with a higher power and I work for Bravo and they listen to me! No, they don’t. Oh, they’ve all said it. I don’t have that power, so I think people might be a little afraid of me.
The mid-season trailer recently came out, and there is a lot of footage from what looks like a dramatic Jamaica trip, including a bump in the road for you and Shannon Beador. What can you tell me about that?
Because I was going through so much, and she was laying so much of her stuff on me, it was getting very hard to be around somebody who was in such a bad place, as well. I needed someone who was supportive and upbeat, which wasn’t even on her mind. She was just dealing with everything she was going through. So, going on our trip we just wanted to have fun, honestly. She was still in that very downward spiral, bring negative at every dinner and texting under the table. It got to a point where we were just like, “Listen, you need to stop!” And I think it was exactly what she needed, because she really has moved forward since then. I like to call it tough love, and she wasn’t giving Emily or Gina the time of day. It’s like, we’re on a show together! She was only focused on what she was going through. It was like that movie "Moonstruck": "Snap out of it!"
Shannon came in for an interview recently, and she said that she was labeled as "selfish" for how she was acting. Is that how you would characterize it?
We were all kind of talking about that. Basically, I think that Shannon has the biggest heart, and she is the nicest person, but sometimes when you’re consumed with so much stuff going on in your life, you don’t look at your friends and ask about their day. She’s a very emotional person, and she always wants to tell you about it, but we don’t always want to hear about it. Like, if you aren’t going to help yourself, we aren’t going to help you. It was never from a place of, “You’re a horrible person,” it was always from the place of, “We’re concerned about you. You cry a lot, you’re not moving on.” This was a long time coming -- we’ve seen this for four years.
And, like you said, she's moved on and is in a much better place -- she's lost 27 pounds! Have you been helping her with any of the fitness stuff?
We’ve talked about the fitness stuff. My gym is a little bit too far for her to come to, and she doesn’t like to work out. I even offered to send her one of her trainers, but she said "no," because she knows I would be keeping an eye on her and they’d be reporting back to me. But we talk about food and what she’s eating, because that’s ninety percent of it. The key to it is just being consistent.
Is there anything that someone has said about you this season that you found out about by watching?
Not yet! We’re just getting halfway through the season, and a lot of times with new girls it takes a while for things to warm up. It takes a while for the viewers to get to know them, we have to go through their whole family history ... No more new girls!
That reminds me of something Vicki said when she came in for an interview recently: Because the new ladies have been watching the show for 10 years, they act the way that they think they should be acting based off of what they've seen. Do you agree?
Definitely. That’s where it’s tough. Even when I got on the show, I felt like I had to act and dress and be a certain way to fit in, but then you find your spot, if you’re good for the show. Not everybody is made out to be on TV. Somebody might be a great person and nice and all that, but that's not definitely good TV. That is a problem.
How did you personally get past that?
I wasn’t intimidated anymore and was like, "I’m just gonna be me."
Are there women that you would bring back instead of bringing on more new people?
I think right now Heather [Dubrow] would be a good addition to the show. [She was a] voice of reason, and she had that sense of -- I don’t want to call it snobby but … uppity? People loved to hate her. I even said that I so badly wanted to hate her, but I couldn’t. It looks like she has it all. I think she would work well. I’m personally tired of switching the cast up. I think we could lose one and gain Heather.
Looking back, what have you learned about yourself since joining the show in season 3? Surely you've seen things on the show that you realize and then wanted to correct.
There are two types of people that are on the show: You see yourself and you’re like, “Oh wow, that’s not a good look. I’m judgmental, I’m a mean drunk…” You think about all of these things that you see and you want to make better, and then there are people on the show that see themselves and just don’t get it. They remain the same person, and that’s Vicki. Vicki is Vicki. It’s like, “You know you’re on a show, right?” And she’s like, “Oh, yeah, I forgot.” You gotta love her. Kelly’s going through that now. Kelly has said and done a lot of impulsive things, and now she’s looking at herself and trying to become a nicer person. But I like the old Kelly better … for TV!
How do you think you've changed since being on the show, if at all?
When I started the show, I was in a very bad relationship which kind of comes out in other areas of your life when you’re not happy. I’m still very feisty and speak my mind and tell the truth. I'm not interested in impressing people. I don’t want to go on the show and pretend my life is perfect and show you private jets and fancy cars. I’m not that girl at all. There are certain Housewives that come on and want to only show you the best and be like the filter on their Instagram pictures. With Shannon and I both, we are extremely "what you see is what you get."
What can we expect the rest of the season?
Things start to heat up in Jamaica, and they continue to the rest of the season. Jamaica was fun, but it was a lot. We have our geriatric party with Shannon Vicki and myself. It was all my idea, and I showed up to the door dressed like a 90 year old. We roomed together and Emily goes, "That's the old folks' room." And she had mentioned it a couple of times like, "Oh, the geriatric crew!" So, it was Gina’s birthday party and it was a sequined birthday and I was like, “This old b--ch doesn’t wear sequins anymore.”
Lastly, what's one thing that you would you want to address on the reunion?
My relationship with Shannon and how it went down. The tough love and how we are now. I don’t really fight with anybody. Like, what is the world coming to when I’m the voice of reason. But some of the things said to Shannon were really mean by new cast members, and just to be able to stick up for her. I didn’t do a good job of sticking up for her in the moment.
"The Real Housewives of Orange County" airs on Mondays at 9 p.m. EST on Bravo