At the end of the first season of The Real Housewives of Vancouver, the five women featured on the show could not be in a room together without breaking into a fight. Six months later, three of the original cast members—Jody Claman, Ronnie Negus, and Mary Zilba—are sharing a sofa inside a suite at the Four Seasons Hotel. Joined by season 2’s new housewives—Amanda Hansen, Ioulia Reynolds, and Robin Reichman—the six women laugh, embrace, and chat with each other like close friends.
“I’m really all about forgiveness, and I think that if you hold onto hate and animosity, it’s a slow death,” Ronnie tells the Georgia Straight. “It’s easy to get caught up in the show… but at the end of the day, life is fleeting and forgiveness is really a salvation. It’s a beautiful thing.”
The statuesque mother of five isn’t the only one in the room who decided to turn over a new leaf while filming season 2 from July to October 2012.
“For a lot of us, there was a lot of closure,” Jody, who is dressed in a frothy peach and silver party dress and is the most outgoing of the bunch, says. “This season was really about leadership and strong women, and when I looked back and reflected, I really enjoyed this season.”
On the one-hour season premiere (airing February 5 at 10 p.m. on Slice), new cast members are introduced as acquaintances of the three returning housewives. Ioulia, an art consultant, helps Mary pick out a new painting for her Yaletown condo. Amanda, a single mom to three young children, seeks Jody’s help in order to launch her own kombucha tea business. Robin, meanwhile, befriends Ronnie at the Southlands Riding Club over their mutual love for horses. All six women meet at a celebratory barbeque held at Ronnie’s sprawling, waterfront West Vancouver home.
“I studied the first season like it was the Bible—I did. I was hooked. I loved season one, and I really, really wanted to be a part of it,” Amanda, who is a recovering alcoholic, says. “I just really didn’t want to misrepresent myself, or act in a manner that was going to basically offend my community of people. … I really wanted to try to bring light to the people who choose not to drink and make it look like I’ve made a good decision.”
“We all have our reasons why, and I know exactly why I did it,” Ioulia chimes in. “You pay the price, absolutely, but you turn it around and make the best out of it.”
The optimistic and fiery blonde is in her late 20s and married to a venture capitalist 20 years her senior. Although she moved to Vancouver 11 years ago, Ioulia speaks in a thick Russian accent and says that she grapples with issues of being an immigrant on the show.
“One big pressure that I have on me is how my Russian community is going to look at me and judge me,” she says. “We all went through our own personal journeys. It was very interesting, very raw.”
Robin, who moved from Texas 20 years ago and is a single mom to two young girls, was more concerned about what it might be like to fill the stiletto-heeled shoes left by season 1 housewives Reiko MacKenzie and Christina Kiesel.
“You know that there was existing friendship for many years, and then it’s kind of tampered with because it’s also the nature of the show,” Robin says in a sweet southern drawl. “My 11-year-old has seen me at my worst, and now the viewers are going to see me at my worst. I think that that’s what I’ll probably struggle with the most.”
On season 1, most viewers would agree that Mary, who is in the process of reigniting her singing career and launching a beauty label called BUFF Beauty, experienced a lot of bullying. The Oklahoma-raised former beauty queen was therefore hesitant to sign on for more drama.
“I think there was some trepidation for me because of everything that transpired, but I think at the end of the day, there are some good things that can come out of this show,” she says. “I’ve had a bigger voice in the community and I’ve been really, really busy with a lot of charity work. … I’ve been able to use my Facebook, my social media, to gather people together to do homeless baskets, to do things for transitional homes, to do a lot of anti-bullying. I’m working with Christy Clark, so there are some great things that have gone to the greater good.”
Ronnie, on the other hand, was keen on using the second season to makeover her image.
“In the first season, I wasn’t entirely happy with the way I was portrayed and I think that it was a nice opportunity for me to let the viewers see another side of me—more of my mother side—and you know, I’m vulnerable, and I’ve got a heart, and I’m a loving person,” she says. “People only see me getting drunk and falling over. It’s far from the truth. I couldn’t be a successful human being with beautiful children and living the life if that was the truth.”
“Anyone’s who’s intelligent would know I’m not a villain because I’m a multimillionaire from being a people-person,” Jody adds. “So I couldn’t care less. I understood what I had signed…and I’m the happiest girl in the world right now.”
With a new season of The Real Housewives of Vancouver airing in less than a week, all six women seem giddy with excitement. Ioulia, Amanda, and Robin are looking forward to the opportunities that will come with being on the show, and the veteran housewives—having now survived two seasons—are ready to prove that they’re more than just drama queens.
“You know to have said that you’ve been on a reality show, it’s a great experience, like a real life experience,” Ronnie says matter-of-factly. “There aren’t perfect people and it is real to make mistakes and to fall down. That’s why this show’s so popular, right? It resonates with people. It’s real.”