Once voted the “nicest” person in New York, Heather Dubrow was also voted “too New York” for The Real Housewives of Orange County. Having been passed over by producers for Season 5 she was called again for Season 7. Despite her East Coast black wardrobe and lack of highlights and self tanner, she’s quickly become a RHOC fan favorite. Notoriously the only Housewife I claimed to “dislike”, I recently caught up with Heather to find out more about Orange County’s dark horse and why she’s winning over OC fans, everywhere.
TBB: Many people may not know you have a pageant history. Tell us about it:
HD: (laughs) Oh my…I went to Syracuse (University) as a musical theatre major. In that program the girls do the pageants. Vanessa Williams, whose brother I grew up with, was also in that program and also did it, you all know how that turned out (laughs). It’s a good opportunity to be seen singing on stage. There was no American Idol or The Voice then. Other than Star Search there was no way to be seen. So I entered one in Syracuse and I won. Then I entered New York and won Miss Congeniality. They asked everyone what it means to be a good friend and, I guess they liked my answer so much that for about a year I was the “nicest” girl in the state of New York. It still benefits me now because through the pageant experience I learned a lot about doing interviews and being able to walk and talk at the same time.
TBB:From 2000 to 2002 you starred in CBS’s That’s Life for which, I read, you composed the theme song. You’ve also sung at weddings and other big events. Why don’t you showcase your musical talents on RHOC?
HD: It reads that way but in reality I just sang it, I didn’t write it. (After college)I thought I’d do Broadway but a series of events lead to TV. I had a musical background, no money and was singing at Disneyland. There I met this guy and we sang at weddings and parties. Soon we started playing corporate gigs. While I was doing that I was getting little TV parts, meeting agents, etc. At last year’s finale party (the producers) wanted me to sing, but it felt inauthentic to me. I don’t sing all the time anymore. I also kept having problems with my voice for the last year and a half. I’ve been seeing doctors for ulcerated vocal cords. One had me not talk for three weeks straight, not even a peep! Surgery is a last resort, and I’m hoping it resolves itself. Tamra (Barney) has asked me to sing at her wedding so I’m trying to get my voice back for that.
TBB: So no plans to release a single like many Housewives have?
HD: No I really don’t think so. I love singing and I love performing and it’s been a big part of my life. I guess never say never. I recently saw Rita Wilson and she put out an album. But for right now I’ve been doing a bunch of scripted TV, which I love and I miss. They’ve caught some of that for the upcoming season and I’m glad people will see me in my element.
TBB: Yes, you’ve recently resurrected your acting career with guest roles on sitcoms like Hot In Cleveland. Was joining the Housewives cast a strategy to help jump-start your return to acting?
HD: No, I actually thought it would do the exact opposite. I thought it would be the nail in the coffin of what had been my career which was part of the reason that I didn’t (initially) want to do it. I was a snob about the Reality genre and felt it was a step down. I’ve learned that work begets work, exposure is exposure, and if you stay true to your brand it could help.
TBB: Your husband, Terry, has previously been on Reality TV as one of the surgeons on the makeover show The Swan (2004). Did his experience influence your decision to do Housewives?
HD: He was on The Swan, Bridalplasty (2010), a lot of Reality TV. He was very comfortable with these shows and he saw the value of being on a show like (Housewives). He had a lot to do with me being on the show. I had met with producers the year Alexis (Bellino) joined the cast. I had never seen the show, but they called my husband and said “We want to meet your wife.” They said they were going to hire all new people so I met with them and had all my friends meet with them. At the end of the day they felt I was “too New York” to be on the show. Terry said “Thank God you didn’t get it. They’re mean and they throw wine at each other.” The next year when they asked if I’d be interested again, I said “No thank you.”The year after I was pitching a show with my friends about opening a restaurant. By this point I was a big fan of Beverly Hills because Terry knew Paul (Nassif) and we would watch it to see him and Adrienne (Maloof), however I was scared because I heard the OC girls were really mean and crazy. (My friends and I) had offers from production companies,but they wanted us open before they filmed even a sizzle reel. That and my husband convinced me to give (Housewives) a try.
TBB: We saw you explore your desire to open a restaurant on Season 7. Is that project still in the works?
HD: Yes. We’ve partnered up with Fabio Viviani from Top Chef (Season 5). I love him and I love his partners. We just went to his restaurant opening in Chicago. His group is amazing and I’m excited to be opening with him! We found a location that is being built so we are looking at a 2014 opening.
TBB: Last season you were the new girl on the OC block, but quickly rose to the top of what New York Housewife Sonja Morgan would refer to as “the pecking order.” What do you think it is about you that has related so well with the fans as well as the other women on the show?
HD: Thank you for saying that. My opinion is that I think the audience can smell BS. When someone comes on and is authentically themselves you respond to it. I feel like I came on as myself. I was honest. When I’m saying something it’s because I mean it.
TBB: Your background is in scripted stage and TV, was it difficult to be natural and not act for the cameras?
HD: I think it’s just a challenge to not have a script. You are held accountable for anything and everything that comes out of your mouth. We are human beings and have bad days. When you do it on camera it’s there to be played over and over again. In fact I felt very on edge the first half of the season.
TBB: How do you feel about how you were portrayed and the way you treated Alexis and Sarah (Winchester) last season and what is your relationship with them now?
HD: Sarah, I don’t see or speak to her at all. I don’t think I did anything to her. She acted pretty outrageous every time I saw her. From what I understand Gretchen (Rossi) hadn’t seen her behave that way before. She’s a single mom and I wish her well, but I don’t have any problem with how I reacted to her. As far as Alexis things were said on both sides and things get blown out of proportion. Every time Alexis and I hung out together I feel like things were taken and said the wrong way. When I asked about her house selling versus renting it was just conversation. She got upset and I got upset. The one thing I regret is when we were in Costa Rica. I should have said at the table “let’s not talk about this now.” I don’t regret the conversation, but when everyone else gets involved it becomes a whole different ballgame. The next day I went to her room to talk. We are in a much much better place now.
TBB: I read that in Season 8 we will see you struggle to balance family and career. What are some things you’ve discovered about being a working mom that surprised you?
HD: I think it’s important for women to want to work. You need to be a complete whole person. I’m surprised how much easier it is to go to work, but I think what surprised me most was that Terry, who is really supportive and great, really wasn’t that supportive at the beginning. It’s a conflict that resonates throughout the season with us.
TBB: It’s been reported that you are moving…
HD: Yes. Twice…isn’t that crazy? Someone knocked on our door in December and made an offer we couldn’t refuse. Now we have to move to a furnished rental while our house is being built.
TBB: Is there anything else you would like people to know about you?
HD: I definitely read Twitter and try to answer whenever I can. I like getting people’s feedback. Even though you weren’t that crazy about me in the beginning, none of it was mean. There will be people who will hate, but I can’t imagine people sit down behind their computers to spew out real hate. I don’t mind people having opinions. When you put yourself on a show you are putting yourself out there to be judged.