There’s a new Housewife in Orange County, and -- get this -- she’s really a housewife!
Braunwyn Windham-Burke joins the cast of Bravo’s Real Housewives of Orange County for season 14, seamlessly slipping into the group the moment she steps foot into The Quiet Woman.
"From the first day I met them, we were literally having a great time dancing on tables," Braunwyn tells ET. "I am a girl’s girl. I love women, I have tons of women friends. So, you throw me into a group of women with music and tequila, and I am going to have a good time."
"You get me a babysitter and take me out of my house, I'm going to make the most of it," she adds. "And these women are fun. They know how to have a good time, and I just instantly had a connection with all of them."
Kelly Dodd serves as Braunwyn’s introduction to the group, the two having connected at the Balboa Bay Club, essentially a country club without a golf course, in Newport Beach, California. But Braunwyn actually knew of Kelly, and all the ladies, before that.
"I did watch the show," the 41-year-old admits. "I was a big fan, and I've been watching it the whole time. So, for me, it was sort of a dream come true."
"I mean, I've watched all of them," she adds, meaning all the Housewives cities. "But I grew up in Orange County, so OC was my ride or die."
Yes, Braunwyn was born and raised in Orange County, albeit a bit unconventionally by her mom, Deborah Windham, also known as Dr. Deb.
A post shared by “Dr Deb”-Deborah Windham MD (@1drdeb) on Mar 7, 2019 at 9:31pm PST
"My mom is fun!" Braunwyn exclaims. "She is big and bright and colorful and, yeah, she's a big part of the show."
Dr. Deb is a "priestess of Burning Man," the annual cultural arts festival held in the Nevada desert. She’s also a medical doctor and a "retired rock star."
"I was with her through most of it," Braunwyn says of her mom’s many lives. "I was hanging out at the Whiskey [a Go Go] and the Roxy in footie pajamas. When she was in med school, I was living with my grandparents. During the Burning Man phase, I was procreating."
Braunwyn has actually procreated a lot. She and her husband, Sean Burke, have seven children: Bella, 18; Rowan, 17; Jacob, 14; Caden, 6; Curren, 6; Koa, 4; and Hazel, 1.
"Originally, we wanted five," she notes, adding that the decision had nothing to do with their religious or cultural backgrounds. Instead, Braunwyn jokes that she and her husband like to "get drunk and have fun."
"We always wanted a lot of kids," she says. "From the first time I met my husband, I always wanted to be a stay-at-home mom with a lot of kids. That was sort of my dream."
Braunwyn knows she might face some criticism from viewers for aspiring to never have to go to work, but she totally owns it. And it’s worth arguing, seven kids is more than a full-time job.
"After the boys were born -- [kids] four and five were twins -- I kind of was like, someone’s missing. I didn't feel that feeling of being done," she continues. "So, we went for a sixth."
"We had twins again, and [lost] one," she shares. "So we went for a seventh, because I sort of just felt like we needed to end on a high note and someone else was supposed to be there. So, when we had our seventh, I felt done … Now, I look at the family photo and I'm like, everyone that's supposed to be here is here."
A post shared by Braunwyn Windham-Burke (@braunwynwindhamburke) on Jul 2, 2019 at 11:50pm PDT
On the season 14 premiere, Braunwyn confesses that she’s been breastfeeding for nearly 18 years straight! But, today, she’s happy to say she’s retired from that job.
"I went out with a bang!" she jokes. "I am no longer nursing and I am living, like, my best life ever!"
Joining RHOC seems to be a big part of that "best life ever" statement for Braunwyn. She says it’s actually made her marriage stronger, and made her appreciate her family more than she knew she could.
"I think, for me, one of the big reasons I did the show was because it's important to say, 'Yes, I have seven kids. I'm a full-time mom,' but it’s also, I have another side to me and that's OK," she says. "I can go out, I can have fun and that's allowed. So, I'm a great mom, but I'm also a great friend and a great wife, [and] I'm also sometimes just Braunwyn."
"I really did think being a stay-at-home mom was enough for me," Braunwyn adds. "And then, this happened and I'm like, this was the missing puzzle piece. Something that was just for me."
"I'm happier than I've ever been in my whole life!" she gushes. "I had been a stay-at-home mom -- a full-time stay-at-home mom -- for 18,19 years now. So, for me to be able to go out alone, at first it was kind of nerve racking to be away from my kids and my husband, but once I found my groove I was like, 'Oh! This is fun. I’m in!'"
Braunwyn’s family moved back to her hometown three years ago from Miami, which is when she connected with Kelly.
"Kelly is fun," Braunwyn proclaims. "The two of us were like frick and frack. We have the best time, doesn't matter what we were doing. It was fun. We just mesh well together. Our energies are very similar."
Being a longtime fan, Braunwyn acknowledges that it was a little odd to all of a sudden be hanging out with women she had watched on TV, but that feeling faded away quickly.
"The women are all so authentic and they're all so real that very quickly, they go from people you've seen on the screen to actual women that you have relationships with," she shares. "Some of them are my real friends, some of them are… you know, are just really great people."
A post shared by Braunwyn Windham-Burke (@braunwynwindhamburke) on Jul 2, 2019 at 11:30am PDT
Braunwyn says she’s grown closest to "soul sister" Tamra Judge and Shannon Beador, who "welcomed me with open arms," but it doesn’t sound like she’s quite won over the “OG of the OC,” Vicki Gunvalson, who moves into a "friend of the Housewives" role this season.
"She's like the principal or the mom [of the group], so to speak," she says of Vicki, whom Braunwyn technically "replaced," becoming RHOC's sixth full-time Housewife.
"I think when people watch, they’re gonna realize that's not true," Braunwyn promises. "Vicki, she's with us all the time. She's on the trip … Vicki is a big part of the show this season."
As for what fans can expect from Braunwyn and the rest of the ladies in the new batch of episodes, she says a lot of fun.
"I got two pieces [of advice before I joined]," she reveals. "Don't get drunk and don't trust anyone. And I totally messed those up within the first 10 minutes. I got drunk and I trusted everyone."
And, as a fan of the show, she promises season 14 is a 10 on a scale of one to 10.
"Oh, this is a 10!” she declares. "I look through my photos and even sometimes I'm like, I can't believe that happened. You know, you joke about it, but you couldn't script this stuff. It’s a good season!"
"We all had big things happen in our life," she goes on. "I think that's a big part of it. And I also think there was just an open rawness to this season, where people kind of let their guard down a little and let you in where they hadn't before."
"We get a little more real with each other," Braunwyn offers. "We get open with each other, and at the end of the day, I think a lot of us get through some stuff together."
The Real Housewives of Orange County airs Tuesdays on Bravo at 9 p.m. ET, starting Aug. 6. For more with Braunwyn -- including a special video message from her lookalike, Real Housewives of Dallas star Stephanie Hollman -- check out the video above.