Vicki Gunvalson, the gregarious star of Real Housewives of Orange County—the original (and best) version of Bravo's hit reality franchise—is very busy. We caught her on the phone while she was hurrying through the airport, having just landed in LA from Denver and off to somewhere else. Graciously, she took a little time to talk to us about the fifth season of the show, which premieres tonight at 10pm EST on Bravo. Though she seems a little (or, OK, a lot) bumbling and crazy on the show ("WooooHooo!!" is her frequent partying refrain), the Vicki we spoke to on the phone was brisk and businesslike, focused intently on the strength of her family and the advancement of her career.
Before Real Housewives ever aired, you already had a successful career in insurance. Why then do a reality show? What was the appeal?
Six years ago it was just a pilot that was going to be presented to Bravo. My husband and I had no idea it was going to go to the level it has. The main idea was to showcase my business and have a little fun. And that’s what it’s done. I started my business and it was just me. Now I have seven hundred agents. While people are firing and laying off, I’m hiring. I have a book coming out, I’m speaking to women all over the country about how to manage their finances. I’m busy.
Since your last season, the franchise has really blown up with the New Jersey and Atlanta versions. Do you welcome these new ladies, or feel territorial?
They’ve got nothing to do with our show. They just share part of a name. We don’t ever see them. It’s just a whole other show. I say the more the merrier. It doesn’t impact my life. Whoever wants to come on a show, let ‘em come on.
Is there a Housewife from any of the other versions that you think you're most like?
Honestly, I don't really watch the others. If I’ve got nothing else to do I’ll turn it on, but I just don’t have time to watch TV. Maybe news at night. I’m extremely busy. I travel a lot.
How do you gauge the reaction to the show? Does some of the negative stuff surprise or hurt you?
I don’t go on the blogs. I run a huge business. I have very little time. The last thing I’m going to do when I’m home and have a few minutes to relax is go and read blogs. People who write on blogs have nothing to do in their own lives. And look, If it’s not good for my family or it doesn't make me money, I’m not gonna do it. I don’t really care.
Gretchen and Lynn were pretty polarizing characters last season. Lots of fighting! Can we expect the same this season? Is there going to be conflict?
If you put five women together, yes there’s gonna be lots of disagreements. I actually tried to stay out of it this season, it’s just destructive and you can get sucked in. These women are acquaintances of mine, because we film together. I barely know them. There’s this misconception that we’re all friends. We’re filming a show together, that’s it. Through the process you can become friends with some of them. Tamara Barney is a friend. You gravitate towards some people while filming. But others, you don’t.
Do people recognize you these days?
I was just in Indianapolis and I went out on Halloween, and people thought I was dressed as Vicki! They'd say "Oh what a great Vicki Gunvalson costume." And I said “Ummm it’s me. This isn’t a costume!" It's funny. They were all saying, "What is she doing here?"