Local 'Housewife': Suburbs superior to OC
Orange County ain't got nothin' on the Northwest suburbs.
At least according to Vicki Gunvalson, a Northwest suburban native and one of the stars of Bravo's hit reality TV series, "Real Housewives of OC."
Gunvalson is in town this weekend to do some appearances, attend tonight's Fremd High School Class of 1980 reunion, and visit her many friends and family (brother Billy in Trout Valley; sister Lisa in Cary; sister Kim in Hoffman Estates; mom Joanne in Prairie Grove).
We spoke with Gunvalson about everything from her beauty school days to her ongoing feud with fellow housewife Jeana. Below is an edited version of the interview.
Q: Did you grow up in Mount Prospect or Palatine?
A: Both. I was born and raised in Mount Prospect, and we moved to Palatine when I was in eighth grade. I went to Fremd and Harper (College), but I left after 1½ years and went to beauty school. I started working out of my house, doing perms and cuts in my garage. I decided I really didn't like it. I didn't like being on my feet all day, and I think you need to have a creative mind. I'm more of a numbers and sales person ... the whole beauty industry didn't fit for me. I got married when I was 21, I was pregnant with Michael when I was 23 ... and I was divorced when I was 29. I remarried and left for California 16 years ago.
Q: In one episode, you brought all the housewives to Armand's in downtown Arlington Heights. Why there?
A: My brother's really good friends with the owner. They have a Vicki-tini on the menu now. (The owner) got a lot of people coming by there after it aired, saying, 'I saw you on the show!'
Q: What do the Northwest suburbs have that the OC doesn't?
A: It has so much that the OC doesn't. The train! The train is a nostalgic thing to me. You're always crossing over tracks here. It's got the ethnicity. California is pretty new where I live. There's nothing that has anything heritage. Everything is brand new buildings, but there's no culture there.
Q: How has the show changed your life?
A: In every way possible. There's no more privacy. Yesterday, I got off the plane and go down to baggage claim, and there's a woman standing with 30 8x10 pictures of me. She tracked me and knew when I was landing. That stuff kinda freaks me out because I don't know who's watching me. How did they know I was on that flight at that time?
Q: Are you still best friends with Tamra after she and Simon broke up?
A: We just got done making up. We had a meeting of the minds and I had to forgive her. She said she was at a bad place in her life and she asked for forgiveness. All I asked for was an apology ... and said, "Don't ever do it again."
Q: You and Jeana were friends until she asked to borrow money. What's the status of your friendship now?
A: We're not friends. Jeana put me in an investment, a rental property ... and all of the appraisal documents were bad ... it turned out to be a bad investment for everyone but her. There are some things that I'll never forgive her for. Those type of people I never want to be around.
Q: What's next for you?
A: We're filming Season 6 right now, and it'll be out in November-December. I guess just growing my business, traveling, seeing the world, and I don't know. There's still a lot of growth happening in my life.
Q: Who are you still friends with?
A: I'm social friends with Lauri (from Season 3). I don't have a lot of social time with people. It's work or family.
Q: How are your children Briana and Michael?
A: My family is everything to me. Briana is a nurse in Newport Beach and just moved out. Michael's an insurance agent for me and still lives at home. I'm starting to have some empty nester issues already. I really enjoy my children.
Q: You're the only one of the 'Housewives" who works. How's your business? (Coto Insurance and Financial Services)
A: Amazing. We've grown 400 percent from last year to this year, and tripled in the last three years. I now have 730 agents out in the field and 12 employees in office.
Q: Do you still treat your employees to things like tanning and Botox?
A: We do spray tans. The girl comes once every three weeks, and a doctor comes and gives injections. I just hired a personal trainer for all the staff to do a boot camp after work. I try to keep a great environment there.
Q: How has the show evolved from being the first city of 'Real Housewives'?
A: It just kind of flattering in a way, because the success of our show led the other franchises to come on board. Now it's getting so saturated, that it's too many. People have got to be thinking, "Enough's enough."
Vicki Gunvalson will sign copies of her book, "More Than A Housewife," starting at 6 p.m. today during Macy's Fashion's Night Out event, 111 N. State St., Chicago.