'Real Housewives of OC' moves forward, looks back
This undated publicity photo provided by Bravo shows Vicki Gunvalson, left, and Kimberly Bryant in a scene from "Party" in Bravo's season one of "The Real Housewives of Orange County." When Gunvalson first appeared on the first season of "The Real Housewives," she was married with two teenagers and sold insurance from home. She's now a first-time grandmother with her own insurance company and 12 employees. (AP Photo/Bravo, Jamie Trueblood)
FOUNTAIN VALLEY, Calif. (AP) — Vicki Gunvalson is making it look easy.
On an unusually dreary day in Orange County earlier this month, inside a soundstage situated between a furniture outlet and a mattress store, the excitable insurance agent is perched on a chair in front of a green screen spilling her guts out to a camera — well, a producer sitting beside a camera.
Nothing is off limits: her divorce, finances, fights with her children, her relationship with God, you name it.
Of course, opening herself up for the world to see — and judge — has become second nature to the reigning queen of Bravo's "The Real Housewives of Orange County," which begins its eighth season Monday. Most of Gunvalson's life has been proudly captured by reality TV cameras since 2006, back when Anna Nicole Smith was still alive and tweeting was still for the birds.
It's Gunvalson's new reality. Over the past eight years, she's remained the one constant in "The Real Housewives" universe, which now includes editions in New York, Atlanta, New Jersey, Miami and Beverly Hills, as well as international versions in places like Canada, Ireland and Australia.
While the rest of the inaugural "Orange County" ensemble moved on or wasn't asked back or whatever, and others have come and gone, Gunvalson stuck with the show, and the show stuck with Gunvalson. Why has she continued to allow reality TV cameras to document so much of her personal life?
"I have a sense of responsibility," she says following her on-camera therapy session. "I would've been (expletive) at myself if I backed out of season five or six and saw the success of the franchise keep going, and I elected to pull back because I couldn't handle it anymore. There's nothing I can't handle. I just have to figure out a way not to crumble when times get tough when I'm doing this."
This undated publicity photo provided by Bravo shows, from left, Jo De La Rosa, Lauri Peterson, Vicki Gunvalson and Jeana Keough in a scene from "Home and Garden Show" in Bravo's season two of "The Real Housewives of Orange County." Later in 2013, the show will reach a TV milestone: its 100th episode. To mark the occasion, Bravo is planning a standalone two-hour special that will pull back the curtain on the series and revisit past cast members. (AP Photo/Bravo, Kelsey McNeal)
When she debuted on the first season of "The Real Housewives," the 42-year-old Gunvalson was married with two teenagers and sold insurance from home. She's now a 51-year-old first-time grandmother with her own insurance company and 12 employees. She's also still trudging through a drawn-out divorce.
Sure, Gunvalson wishes she would have said and done some things differently over the years, but she has no regrets. In the same breath, she can blame the experience for the collapse of her marriage but praise it for giving her more confidence across all aspects of her life.