Exclusive Interview: Heather Dubrow
Written by Joni Ravenna
The Newest Real Housewife of the OC on Nannies, Infertility and How Much Of ‘Real’ is Really Real
A Candid Conversation With Heather Dubrow
Newest Real Housewife of Orange County (RHOC), Heather Dubrow, graciously opened her home to Parenting OC Magazine in honor of Mother’s Day. She also opened her heart, candidly discussing everything from her early struggles with infertility to her present challenges juggling motherhood with the demands of her shooting schedule. We found her to be authentic, smart and funny; and if Heather doesn’t have time for phonies, well that’s because this mother of four is also in the process of opening her own restaurant and possibly moving from her present home to larger digs with more rooms for her growing family (her current home is 14,000 square feet!).
Wife, mother, actress, and entrepreneur, the RHOC’s most recent addition is also being credited with boosting the ratings like never before without having to break a plate or a sweat to do it (nor toss a single glass of pinot noir). Read on to find out how she pulls it all off and where she goes to get a little pampering when the pressures of playing so many different roles come to bare. We think you’ll agree, Heather Dubrow is a class act. To see what some of the other Real Housewives of Orange County think of Heather, go to www.parentingoc.com.
JR: How did you end up coming onto the show?
(Just as she is about to answer you can hear children clamoring for her attention. When she returns she explains)
HD: Excuse me, but they shut off our power at 9:15 this morning and didn’t notify us; and it will be off until 6:00 pm! Meanwhile I’ve got my girlfriend’s kids coming to the house this afternoon because she’s having a procedure done. It’s crazy. Our driveway gate is electric, so I’m out there holding the baby and begging the construction guys from next door to help me open the gate (laughs).
JR: So, back to the show.
HD: Well it’s a bit of a long story but basically I was going around town [Los Angeles] pitching a show about me and my girlfriends opening up a restaurant, which we are doing. My husband Terry, who’s a plastic surgeon of course, has done a lot of reality TV, shows like Bridalplasty (E!) and The Swan (Fox). So he thought it would be a fun idea to do a show around the restaurant and in my course of pitching the show, I met Evolution, the production company who produces the RHOC and RHBH, and they asked me to be on the RHOC.
Believe it or not I’d actually never seen the RHOC. I’m a big fan of the Beverly Hills franchise because I’m friends with Adrienne (Maloof) and her husband, Paul; so I watched because of them and I got hooked. There’s been a lot of conversation about this, but it’s true. I had never seen RHOC! I had heard stories that scared me. So, when they asked, I said “no thank you.” But then my husband stopped talking to me for two weeks until I agreed to do it.
JR: I don’t have Bravo at home, but I’ve caught the RHOC at the gym when I’m working out and I have to say you do seem different from the other women, besides the fact that you’re not a blonde. How does it feel to navigate your way through what can be a very snarky, catty environment? You don’t appear to be very used to that kind of behavior?
HD: I’m not. My core group of friends is very nice and everyone’s supportive of and likes each other. Look, all girls have some drama, but I’ve never seen anyone scream at each other before the way these women do. It was definitely a transition. But now that the season’s complete, I feel that I have a good relationship with most of the ladies. I really like them. I don’t define my friends by how much money they have. As long as they are authentically themselves and they are honest about who they are and they own it; then that works for me.
HD: I actually don’t have any problems with Alexis. She’s sweet, she just she opens herself up for ridicule sometimes. Like I said, I don’t do phony. I don’t care where you come from or what you have. Whatever it is, just be real. Alexis, for whatever reason, unfortunately tends to go in that direction sometimes whereas I’m just a very straightforward person. With me what you see is what you get. I don’t have any secrets; I’m just not like that. I’m straightforward and some might find that off-putting but that’s just me. I call it like I see it and if you’re going to put it out there like that, then I’m going to comment on it. That’s just the nature of the show.
JR: We’re always told this is completely natural and never set up. Is that what you’ve found to be true? The fighting is real? No-one’s suggesting, hey it’s time to throw in some drama?
HD: Oh yeah, this is real. Nothing is scripted. Obviously I don’t have a lot of the back-story on these women but I’ve pieced some of it together. They have a lot of history and some of its negative. I think what happens is when you get them together and emotions are already running high, and then you fuel it with some alcohol and turn the cameras on, it polarizes the situation and everything explodes. It’s like a hurricane that blows in this crazy trauma and just as quickly as it comes it will leave and everything is back to normal.
JR: Well, there’s something about having a camera around that causes people to do things they wouldn’t normally do.
HD: I definitely agree with that, but eventually you forget the camera and then whatever it is you’ve done is caught on camera to be repeated again and again. The audience has to remember that we’re all just human and if you had a camera following you around all the time it would catch you doing a few things you weren’t too proud of either.
JR: Well, at least no one’s been caught picking their nose. Where did you grow up?
HD: I’m from New York. I grew up in a little town in Westchester County called Chappaqua and that’s where the Clintons lived actually. My father was an attorney who eventually went into business and my mother was an artist.
JR: So you had a bit of an elitist upbringing if you grew up near the Clintons, no?
HD: I would say we were very comfortable. We lived in a very lovely home with very nice parents in a nice community with nice friends. I hate to use the word normal but I would say it was a typical suburban upbringing. I went to college in upstate New York and studied musical theatre and thought I’d go to New York and go the Broadway route. But then I got flown out to LA to do the pilot for this television show that never got picked up.
JR: So you sing and dance?
HD: I do a little bit of everything. I sing, dance, act, that was the Musical Theatre game. When I came out here and the pilot didn’t go, I sang at Disneyland instead of waiting tables. And then I met a guy and we put together a 14 piece big band, playing all over Southern California, opening for people like Mel Torme.
JR: Any chance you’ll be singing on the show?
HD: I don’t know. It seems pretty cliché. For some reason it seems like every Housewife has a single out. The last time I sang professionally I sang the theme song for a TV show I did called “That’s Life.”
JR: Well it sounds like you’re pretty busy and pretty ambitions. And you’re still relatively young, no?
HD: I’m 43. I moved out here knowing no one and by hook or crook I started getting better agents and little TV jobs and then in ‘96 I met my husband on a blind date. We got married and now we have four children under the age of 8. He’d moved down to OC about a year before I met him so we were going back and forth for quite a while because I was still living up in LA where I was working. After we had kids it seemed smarter to relocate here. So about two years ago we moved into this house that we built.
JR: Where is it?
HD: Pelican Crest. The funny thing is when we built the house we only had three children. I had some problems with fertility. My first pregnancy was twins, we returned and I had another embryo implanted and that’s when I had Katarina. But then we had our miracle, unexpected natural pregnancy and she was our fourth child. And so now we have to figure out how we can make it work. We don’t know; we may have to move.
JR: How big is the house?
HD: Over 14,000 square feet plus the garage and the loggias and all of that.
JR: And how much help does it take to run a place like that?
HD: Oh it takes an army here (laughs). No, we have one housekeeper and while I have two nannies they’re not both here at the same time. My son is involved in sports and my girls have their after school activities everyday and I can’t be in two places at one time and I don’t want to make them pick and choose so I have people here to help me drive. But then the nannies go home and we have family night and family dinners. There’s not someone around 24/7.
JR: Can you tell me more about the fertility problems you mentioned?
Yes. We tried for over a year "naturally" but it turned into a science. We did 6 months of different kinds of treatments (drugs, inseminations, etc.) and nothing worked. It was very frustrating and depressing. We finally turned to IVF. We were very lucky, on our first cycle we ended up with twins, Max and Nicky (now 8 years old). Then, when the twins were a couple of years old, we wanted another child. After the craziness of having twins, I was looking forward to having a singleton. We went back to the doctor and did IVF again; we only put in one embryo and were lucky enough to have Katarina (now 5). Strangely a few years later we were shocked to find out that I was pregnant NATURALLY with little Collette (now 16 months). Infertility is so difficult. I have had a lot of friends go through treatment as well. The important thing is to talk about it. Find a support system for yourself. There are all kinds of different procedures and protocols. Research is key. You must be your own advocate.
JR: What kind of parent do you consider yourself to be?
I expect my kids to be well behaved and appropriate. Having said that, we laugh a lot in our family. I am silly with my kids and love spending time with them.
What is your biggest challenge in being a mom?
My biggest challenge is trying to service them all. Four kids is a lot of kids! I always feel guilty that someone is not getting enough from me.
JR: What did you learn from your mom that helped you personally as a mother?
My mother taught me family first. My family is my number one priority.
JR: Are you still pursuing other acting opportunities?
HD: The contracts at Bravo are pretty strict so there’s not much I can do, but I do have some interesting opportunities coming up in theatre in New York, so we’re exploring this summer or maybe the following year. But you know my youngest is only one, and it’s really important for me to be with them because I know this is such a limited time when they’re young. I didn’t have children to sit on a set somewhere for fifteen hours while someone else is raising my kids. It’s important for me to be with them and be present. That’s why I’m very specific about having nannies. I consider them help not [substitutes] for me.
JR: What kind of father is Terry?
Terry is fun and silly. He is really good at keeping things "light."
JR: With Terry being a plastic surgeon do you get to pop in for a free tune-up every once in a while?
HD: Well, yes I do enjoy fillers and Botox and facials and all of that kind of thing, but I’ve never actually had any plastic surgery done.
JR: It seems especially in Newport you find women with lips three times too big and frozen foreheads. As the wife of a plastic surgeon do you ever feel compelled to say something to them?
HD: Well my husband, Terry, is a naturalist and he believes that you shouldn’t be able to see plastic surgery. Good plastic surgery is invisible. And our theory is you do a little at a time. Get a little Botox sparingly so your children can still tell when you’re angry. And if some people, because of genetics or whatever, have droopy eyelids or bags, then they might need something larger. It’s a personal decision, though, so no I would never say anything to anyone. Our philosophy is keep it as natural as possible, sleep right, exercise and eat well.
JR: What you put in, you get out. Speaking of which, how do you think this proliferation of reality shows, whether it’s Jersey Shore or Real Housewives, is going to play out in the psyches of children being exposed to it. I realize you’re not a psychologist or a sociologist but you’re clearly an intelligent woman. What’s your take on all this? What’s the outcome going to be?
HD: Well it is a very interesting sociological experiment, I will tell you that. I guess with children we do say that what they’re seeing is affecting how they grow up and how they view people. But I think for adults there’s nothing wrong with entertainment and entertainment comes in all forms. Do I think someone’s going to get a big ‘take-home message’ from these reality shows? Sometimes, maybe it’s how not to behave.
HD: Absolutely! We all want to feel better about ourselves. If you can turn on the TV and see people acting like Koo Koo Birds you can say “At least my life is not that?” I do have to tell you, though, that many of my friends who did watch the RHOC have told me that OC was not properly represented until I joined the cast. People say Beverly Hills has class and money and OC has no class and is in foreclosure when in truth, it really depends on which towns you’re turning the cameras on because there’s a little of both in each county.
HD: Well, I say this a little tongue in cheek because I’m on the show; but people with that much money wouldn’t do the show.
HD: Yes! Isn’t that funny? I’ve heard people make disparaging remarks about the show and I know those same people have auditioned for it.
JR: In one line or two, give me a succinct description of your cast mates?
HD: I don’t think I can do it in a line or two. But I’ll tell you I think Vicki is a very good mother and obviously a very good businesswoman. She runs a successful business and is an original Housewife; she was on the first season.
JR: What about Tamra, she seems to be a bit nasty.
HD: Well the one clip I saw from last year’s season finale was when Tamra threw wine at Jeana Keough; and I have to say, I was horrified! But then I realized it’s a satire! (laughs) That’s when I said, “Okay, I’m in.” Actually I really adore Tamra and Eddie, and I’m thrilled they’ve gotten engaged. We have children similarly aged so we have that in common. Gretchen and Slade, I got to know later in the season. She’d taken some potshots at my acting career. I think if you’re not (as Alexis said, I was no Angelina Jolie) if you’re not someone they immediately recognize, they think you have no career. But of course there are lots of working actors whose names you might not know. But since then, she’s come out and apologized publically and we’ve now developed a very nice friendship and Terry and Eddie get along very well. We have dinner with Gretchen and Tamra and Vicki and their significant others when the cameras aren’t around and we all have a really nice time.
JR: That just leaves Alexis.
HD: Well, Alexis and I have bumped heads a lot this season and while that’s regrettable, if someone gets my phony meter up and you keep asking me about it, I’m going to answer. We definitely have some friction. It’s too bad. I don’t like that kind of thing, but I guess that’s the nature of the beast.
JR: But isn’t that what it’s all about? That’s what keeps the numbers up, right?
HD: And you know what? We have the best numbers this season of the entire series!
JR: And you’re taking a little personal credit for that, huh?
HD: Hey, I want to tell you, I am! (laughs)
To get Alexis and Peggy's take on Heather: Click Here
To read Heather's Shopping List: Click Here