'Real Housewives of Vancouver'
Apr 2, 2012 / 7:25 am
With no husband and no children, Christina Kiesel doesn't really fit the typical definition of housewife, and she'd be the first to admit her life of wealth and opulence is far removed from the daily reality of most Vancouverites.
But the 30-year-old, twice-divorced cast member of the "Real Housewives of Vancouver" makes no apologies for the excess she puts on display in the Canadian adaptation of the salacious TV show.
"It's a guilty pleasure, and I think you want to live vicariously," Kiesel says during an interview with her fellow cast members in the top-floor penthouse of a posh downtown Vancouver hotel.
"I'm offering entertainment."
On the show, which debuts this Wednesday on the Slice network, Kiesel proudly declares her two divorces as her primary source of income and muses about adding a few more to her score card.
She jokes about being a miner, a recurring reference to "gold digging" that may serve as a warning to her next soon-to-be-ex-husband, and delightfully receives Botox injections on camera.
And while she's not exactly a housewife, Kiesel says she still belongs in the show, which follows five upper-class socialites from the Vancouver area as they shop, party, interact with their families and devolve into the nasty melodrama that has defined their American counterparts.
"We all offer something different," Kiesel says when asked how she fits together with her fellow cast members, who are considerably older than her and all have children.
"Whether we're arguing or in love or taking sides, the casting is remarkable."
Kiesel joins Jody Claman, 48, who runs a tony clothing store in West Vancouver; Mary Zilba, 48, a former beauty queen and pop singer; Reiko MacKenzie, 37, a mother of two who loves martial arts and exotic cars; and Ronnie Negus, 43, who owns a winery in California and a collection of toys that includes a yacht and private jet.
The women are tied together through mutual friends and similar social circles, but they don't even make it through the first episode before the knives come out.
The five women insist nothing is scripted. The drama, the tears, the yelling, they're all real.
"Sure, there's a bit of editing, but if you say it, you own it," says Claman, wearing a sparkling outfit that is topped off with a tiara.
"People who say reality TV isn't real are kidding themselves. There are incredible highs and incredible lows on the show, and it's real. You can't make that stuff up."
They all list different reasons for joining the cast.
Claman says she wanted her success in business to be a positive example for young people, while raising awareness for her Larry Lunch Bucket charity in Vancouver's Downtown Eastside.
MacKenzie, too, wants to be a role model, with her martial arts training serving as an example of a strong woman.
Kiesel has dreams of hosting a travel TV show, and she hopes her exposure to the cameras can help launch that career.
Zilba says she hopes the show might help her restart her music career, while also raising money for the Tubular Sclerosis Society, which researches a disease that affects her son.
And Negus, whose daughter has special needs after a premature birth, plans to donate all the money she receives from the show to charity. She sits on the board of the B.C. Centre for Ability.
Nevertheless, some of them were still cautious about laying out their lives for public consumption and exposing their children to the cameras.
Claman says her husband and teenage son both refused to be on the show, although her son does make brief appearances, she says.
Negus told her older children they could choose their own level of participation, and they opted to be on screen. When it came to her younger children, she was more cautious, but still included them in the show.
"For the sake of my younger children who didn't have a voice, I was their voice and I decided they would only be shown in moderation," says Negus.
"I kind of sheltered my younger ones from the cameras."
MacKenzie has already felt what it's like to have skeletons exposed to the public.
Soon after the show's cast was announced, Vancouver-based media outlets revealed that her husband, Sunny MacKenzie, who appears throughout the show, was connected to a notorious gang case in the 1990s.
Her husband was once known as Sun News Lal, who was charged along with five other people in the 1994 gangland killings of two men. He was acquitted in a sensational trial in which a juror, Gillian Guess, had an affair with another one of the accused. Another co-accused, gang leader Bindy Johal, was later murdered.
MacKenzie brushes aside questions about her husband's former life.
"That was 20 years ago in his past, and the story really has nothing to do with who I am or who we are together today," she says.
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