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Heather Gay on Surviving 'RHOSLC's First Reunion, the End of Season 1 and What's Next (Exclusive)

Heather Gay on Surviving 'RHOSLC's First Reunion, the End of Season 1 and What's Next (Exclusive)

Heather Gay didn't just survive her first season on The Real Housewives of Salt Lake City, she thrived -- and according to her, she "won" the season 1 reunion… even though that's not necessarily a thing.

"I won," Heather jokingly proclaims to ET over video chat, just days after she and her co-stars sat down with Housewives maestro Andy Cohen to hash out all the good, the bad and the yet-to-be seen of their freshman run on Bravo.

"It went great from what I can remember. I mean, it's all a huge fog," Heather says of the all-day, all-cast sit-down. "Like, bits and pieces are coming to me. Did that happen? I don't know if it was what I anticipated happening, if it's what a dream or nightmare I've had post, or if it occurred. So I'm kind of in a fog of everything, but overall, you know, the top notes of it were amazing, and a rainbow of emotions and a beautiful set. And Andy Cohen was chef's kiss perfect."

Heather says the reunion, which will air in February, was filled with emotion and tension, healing and hurt.

"I didn't realize how much kerosene was in the room," she teases, hinting at explosive confrontations. "We got into it. At one point, all six of us were talking [at once]. We were all involved and feeling the feelings and fighting the good fight. And I think that it was much more intense than I anticipated it being."

Heather says the special set of episodes will hopefully answer viewers' burning questions about RHOSLC's debut season, from why Mary Cosby missed out on so many group events and what's really going on with her personal life and church ("Mary spoke up. You'll see a lot from Mary," Heather promises), to a conclusion of sorts for Heather's "I don’t know her" feud with Lisa Barlow.

"We have not moved on," she says of the back-and-forth between her and the Vida Tequila owner that was front in center in the season’s early episodes, but fell by the wayside without resolution. “We both had receipts, but I already told you I won, right?”

While that remains to be proven true, it is safe to say Heather won over the hearts of the show's fans. Even before the premiere, Heather garnered praise online for defending trans people, speaking up for those in the LGBTQ+ community and just being unapologetically herself. That shined through on the show, too, all a welcome surprise to the 46-year-old mom of three.

"It's been transformative," she says of joining the Housewives universe, getting choked up the more she thinks of it. "I've been reinvigorated with, like, humanity and the community that's out there, and the love and connections you can make through social media and through television, and so I feel like I have a new lease on life -- and I feel hopeful, and I'm emotional about it because I had resigned to just kind of, you know, peddling the back seat of the tandem bike for my kids and for my family, you know? And so I never really thought that this opportunity and this type of chance would cross my path. So I feel grateful, and I feel lucky."

Heather was at a bit of a crossroads before Housewives, on her own and navigating life as a divorcée, a big no-no for the Mormon community, in which she was raised. She says the show "forced" her to live authentically for the first time in her life, a push for which she'll be forever grateful.

"Forced me to," she reiterates, scoffing at any lesser word. "Helped?! Helped is like a fire hose for a drink of water. [It] forced me to live authentically, as it should've and how sad for me that that's what it took, but I have to be honest, that's what it took."

It's paid off for the Beauty Lab and Laser owner, who revealed late last year that none other than Housewives superfan Rihanna slid into her DMs with this stamp of approval: "I’m obsessed with you!" Rihanna only follows a select group of Bravo-lebrities on Instagram, including Heather and her RHOSLC co-star/cousin Whitney Rose.

Instagram / Heather Gay

"It made me feel like, b***h, get your act together!" Heather recalls of reading Rihanna's message for the first time. "Like, don't let Rihanna down! Like, don't cry, 'I'm divorced, I'm Mormon…' you know, like, pull your panties up, Rihanna's watching! She's not gonna play." 

Heather says she waited a beat before replying to the Fenty founder. She ultimately sent back the message "Same" after verifying she wasn't being duped by a phisher. Then, the real RiRi sent back more words of encouragement for the newly minted reality star.

"She DM’d me back a feminist punch in the arm. Like, listen, keep it real … and keep doing you, you're on the right trajectory," Heather shares. "And then I DM'd back like, 'I won't let you down, Rihanna!'" 

That thought is in the back of Heather's mind as she sees the show play out week by week. She quickly offers a "Sorry, Rihanna!" after taking a dig at her own looks when thinking about what she's learned from watching herself on TV.

"I've learned that I'm not very cool," Heather says. "I'm just, like, clapping like a seal at everything and cheering at everybody and, you know, I love food. I said when we started this, it’s kind of like an aggressive mirror. It shows you a lot -- and the things that I thought it was gonna show me was not my love of meatballs."

Heather's love of meatballs, lollipop chicken drumsticks, french fries and burgers has made her the #RelatableHousewife. She confesses she didn't realize she was being filmed half the time she was indulging in finger foods, but all those moments that make her cringe are the moments that won over the viewers.

"That's the only icing on the cake, man," she says. "Otherwise I'd be like, I'm out, can't do it."

Heather's also learned new things about her co-stars by watching back the episodes, giving kudos to Meredith Marks for being so open and honest about her marital struggles and her fight to keep her family together.

"I gained deep respect for Meredith," she confesses. "She had maintained a very elegant veneer, you know? So I really was impressed by that and moved by it, by seeing the intimacies of her and Seth's relationship -- and I love that couple. I love the way that they speak about marriage. I think it's healthy and progressive and I'm into it. So, that was surprising to me."

It’s an honest dialogue Heather probably wishes she'd been able to have with her own husband, Billy, with whom she split in 2015. To some surprise, Billy made an appearance on last week's episode of RHOSLC, visiting Heather's house to spend Valentine's Day with their daughters, Ashley, 17, Georgia, 14, and Annabelle, 13.

Bravo / Heather Gay

"He's in our lives pretty regularly, so it was pretty natural," she says of the drop-in. "I was glad for it as a mom... and there's the angel and devil over the shoulder: I was glad for it because he's the reason my life has existed. He's the reason I have these daughters… and he's the reason I'm so traumatized."

"He's just been unaffected by a lot of it," she adds. "It's just an interesting dynamic. While he's not supportive of my life choices, he'll always kind of show up for the girls in that capacity."

When RHOSLC first premiered, Heather said on Watch What Happens Live With Andy Cohen that her ex sent her a not-so-nice text message about the "classy" (read that sarcastically) show. After seeing some episodes, though, she says Billy's opinion has changed, at least slightly.

"To see me kind of come out to the girls and talk about the divorce, and seeing that raw side of my emotions, he reached out and texted me and was really kind and just said it was hard for me, too," she shares. "Kind of an apology, or just an acknowledgment, and I think that was hugely positive, 'cause we don't speak of things. We don't discuss things."

"Of course, I didn't reply," she then quips. "Just left him on read!"

While she leaves her ex hanging, Heather's DMs are open to new men. She dipped her toe back into the dating pool while filming Housewives, with one hook-up already airing and a more formal date to come. Plus, she's been getting flirty online with Below Deck Mediterranean alum Alex Radcliffe. Should there be a season two (which all signs point to), Heather is hoping her personal story involves finding love again.

"I just want someone that's fun, and loves sex and loves food and loves just not taking ourselves too seriously," she muses, admitting she's really seeking out a "good time guy" who can match her "good time girl" energy.

"I never really got to be 21 and carefree, and I kinda want to pretend I am and not be shamed for it," she adds, half-joking that TLC's 90 Day Fiancé gives her hope.

"I would like them to cast a love interest for 12 weeks," she cracks. "I would like to feel like someone is in love with me for 12 weeks, and I wanna make out and go on dates on camera and then have them shipped off to a soap opera in Venezuela or something later, you know? I don't care."

In all seriousness, Heather says she feels like for the first time, thanks to the show's push to live authentically, she’ll attract a partner she actually wants. But before she gets there, she has to get through the rest of season one. Though there's only a few episodes left, there's plenty of drama still to play out, as this week picks up in the aftermath of Jen Shah's glass-throwing meltdown at her husband's birthday party. There's been some speculation online that Jen amped up her reactions for the cameras (this isn't the first time, nor will it be the last time she makes a scene of a scene on the show), but Heather says, this is simply who Jen is, reality TV or not.

Bravo

"I thought she would hold back for the cameras," Heather says. "I thought the pressure of appearing, you know… I don't even know, just normal would keep us all kind of under wraps. But no, I have seen Jen react like that many, many, many times off camera. … When she's upset, that's how she responds."

Jen breaking glass (a Housewives right of passage, if we're being honest) came in response to Whitney's attempt to play messenger, informing Jen that Mary claims Meredith and Lisa are scared of her. Whitney also told Meredith that Jen had been talking about her marital issues behind Meredith's back. Neither message was delivered particularly well, seeing as Whitney had been enjoying the bar at the party.

"Listen, Whitney is my girl, there's no question about that," Heather offers in her cousin's defense. "I watched it and I felt like… I felt like a weird stage mom!"

Heather stood by Whitney as she attempted to talk things through with Jen, but excused herself once Lisa and Meredith got involved.

"I would've said this isn't [going well], let's abort, or possibly, like, what we were really trying to say -- which we couldn't say -- is the way you're reacting isn't just a problem for the the inbreds," she adds, "inbreds" being herself and Whitney. "It's a problem for everybody, even the ones you're trying to impress. This is a universal issue that we want you to know about and address. So, yes I would, we would redo the whole thing."

Meredith and Lisa denied ever telling Mary, Jen's now-mortal enemy, that they feared the marketing exec, but Heather thinks there has to be some weight to Mary's claim.

"I think the truth is always somewhere in between," she surmises. "I think you would have to be some sort of masochist to not live afraid of Jen's reactions. It's not a character flaw to be terrified."

Even Heather finds herself scared by Jen at times, confessing in Wednesday's episode that she's terrified of losing their friendship. It's a vulnerable moment in an even more vulnerable setting, outside in bathing suits, soaking in individual hot baths.

"That was a real moment, and it seems pretty dramatic because there's so much history with Jen and I," Heather shares. "I've lost really, really close friends to me because they've kind of chosen the shinier, brighter object in the room, and I very much sensed that [with Jen]. It was poking an old wound with me, with Jen kind of trying to level up to Lisa and Meredith. So whilst dramatic and cringey and embarrassing for me as a human, it was true, you know? My whole life I've felt like my friends traded up when the opportunity presented, and that’s the most hurtful and that never heals, I guess."

Bravo

All season long, Heather says she felt like Jen was aiming to impress her new(er) friends, Lisa and Meredith. That will seemingly continue in the coming weeks, as the cast heads out on their trip to Las Vegas (sans Mary).

"[It's] more drama than fun, more drama than good times," Heather says. "Good time girl didn't get to really spread her wings in Vegas, unfortunately."

The Vegas trip was first teased in the season trailer, when Lisa corners Whitney and Heather to tell them, "I hold myself to a high standard. If you don’t want the same standards, go away!"

"Lisa was teaching us, as much as she teaches her family how to be better," Heather says, getting in a little dig at her co-star. "Lisa became the peace broker in that moment of everything going on, and you know we're in trouble when Lisa Barlow is the voice of reason. I'll tell you right now, I'll just go on record saying that. It definitely took a turn in Vegas at some point."

Heather says "every single" cast member present gets into the drama in Sin City, which apparently results in a "Jen Shah apology tour" in the season's final episodes. Heather says she's on her own pseudo apology tour, too, in her everyday life, as she runs into acquaintances from the Mormon Church. Before the series premiered, Heather expected to be "tarred and feathered" by her former friends for speaking ill of her experience with the religion on the show.

"I saw someone at the nail salon the other day and I'm usually like, 'Oh my gosh! Hi!' and, you know, we'll catch up, and [now], I'm not sure how much they hate me, or how much I’ve hurt them or how much I've betrayed them, because it's very 'one for all' mentality," Heather says. "I know that, 'cause I lived it and I was critical of people that stepped outside and that broke code, and spoke not positively about the church. So, I'm respectful of it. I'm sad. I think it'll take time."

Heather says she's not pulling away, though, and giving her Mormon friends the chance to "surprise" her, especially as she hasn't fully disconnected from the religion. But, she says she has yet to be surprised by the Church’s response to the show.

"It's been exactly what I expected it to be, and it’s been bad," she admits. "In a way, it makes it easier to walk away, you know what I mean? It’s like when you break up with somebody and then they're a dick, you're like OK! I was on to something."

The Real Housewives of Salt Lake City airs Wednesdays at 10 p.m. ET/PT on Bravo.

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