On a rainy Vancouver morning, a week before the premiere of The Real Housewives of Vancouver, four of the five stars of the Vancouver-based reality television show are gathered at the swish Loden Hotel for a long day of interviews and appearances. Reiko MacKenzie, Mary Zilba, Christina Kiesel, and Ronnie Negus are in good spirits. The women are loud and boisterous, occasionally finishing each other’s sentences and laughing often. Are they real friends? Probably. Even if they weren’t BFFs a year ago, it’s obvious they’ve grown close after five months of filming the inaugural season. Are they the real housewives of Vancouver? Well, that depends who you ask.
“Funny how they call the show the real housewives. Aren’t all housewives real?” Ronnie, a statuesque blonde who has five children and lives in a gated West Vancouver community, says to the Straight. “I know our lives seem glamorous, but we’re regular people. You know, my dog shat all over the bedroom floor this morning. I’m raising kids and one’s got disabilities… It seems glamorous, but we are normal people too.”
“We all have morals and ethics and values. We’re all nice, powerful women, and I think we all have a uniqueness about us,” Mary, a single mom to three boys living in Yaletown, chimes in. “The people out there that are haters should really spend their time using their voices for other things, for things that matter.”
The Real Housewives of Vancouver explain why they chose to be on the show.
On the two-hour season premiere of The Real Housewives of Vancouver (airing April 4 at 9 p.m. on Slice), the audience learns that Mary and Ronnie are close friends. Mary is friends with Jody Claman (who is absent at the time of the interview), and Jody is friends with Reiko. It’s a bit unclear as to how Christina—who is twice-divorced and the only housewife without kids—fits into the picture, but she is invited on a weekend trip to Whistler, where all five women are seen together for the first time.
“I did this show, well to be quite honest, for fun. I was really curious what it would be like,” Christina, whose sensual alto voice almost purrs as she talks to the Straight. “I really enjoy these ladies, working with them, and it’s really been an exciting journey.”
Ronnie, who owns four houses side-by-side, a private jet, a yacht, and a Napa Valley vineyard, also joined the show because she saw it as an exciting opportunity.
“I thought it would be an interesting life adventure,” she says. “I’m also hoping to use the show as an avenue to build awareness.”
Ronnie says that her nine-year-old daughter has special needs, and she is donating all of her earnings from starring in The Real Housewives to the B.C. Centre for Ability. Mary, whose son has tuberous sclerosis, also hopes to raise awareness about the disorder through the show— as well as reignite her singing career. Reiko, who considers herself the “ninja girl of the group” because she studies mixed martial arts, hopes that her successes will motivate others.
“I felt like I had something different to offer, inspiring women to be fearless, adventurous, thrill-seeking warriors, and I guess the twist to that is a real warrior, truly, never really fights,” Reiko, who sports a honey-coloured ponytail and a small tattoo behind her right ear, tells the Straight.
The Real Housewives of Vancouver discuss how they're unique and address their critics.
All four women—who differ on many things during the show’s first episode including relationships, lifestyle choices, and a cocktail drink called “The Trophy Wife”—agree on one thing during the interview: they work hard to afford their lifestyle, but they aren’t about to let their children off the hook.
“My children have known nothing but private planes, and movie stars in the south of France, and large yachts. It’s such a false sense of reality. It’s not reality, and it’s not everybody’s reality. So for me I’m trying to breed success onto my children,” Ronnie, who was raised in an average-income family in Seattle, says. “It’s hard when they have so much to actually bring them up and have them appreciate things, and I definitely don’t want my kids spoiled.”
Mary, who was raised on beauty pageants in Ohio, and was a successful Canadian pop singer before stopping to raise her three now-teenage sons agrees. “I’ve got a lot more than some people do, and we can afford to do things… but I do try to instill values and ethics and morals into my children.”
Reiko, whose daughters are under nine years old, says that she’s taking cues from Ronnie when it comes to raising her two young daughters. “I’m still learning, and no one’s perfect… There’s times that it’s challenging, and there’s times when I’m very, very proud,” she says. “I can say that I’m doing my best.”
When it comes to how audiences will react to the show, the four stars are hoping to feel the support of the nation.
“We are Canada. We’re a team, and I would hope that our team of Canadians would support us. It takes a lot of courage to get out here, putting your ass on the line for everybody else,” Ronnie says. “Cheer us on because it takes a certain amount of fearlessness to do this.”
“Forty’s the new 20, and The Real Housewives and reality television are the new soap operas,” Mary adds. “I think people won’t be disappointed to watch this show.”
As for dealing with the backlash that comes with airing their wealth on TV, Christina, for one, isn’t worried about it.
“I think so far the response has been mostly positive, but… any attention is good. I mean, people would love to hate someone as well.”
You can follow Michelle da Silva on Twitter at twitter.com/michdas.