The former 'Real Housewives' stars open up about their daughter, Max's, coming out as bi and share advice for parents of LGBTQ kids.
Heather and Terry Dubrow are ready to give a little advice.
The former Real Housewives of Orange County couple is part of the pool of famous faces doling out guidance on E!'s new shot-from-home series, Celebrity Call Center, premiering Monday night. On the show, groups of stars video chat in a virtual call center, taking turns taking hotline calls from everyday people seeking counseling on everything from diets to dating.
"If you think about it, Heather is sort of a modern-day Mary Poppins in a way, right?" Terry remarks to ET, via video call from his surgery center, where he’s currently shooting the next season of Botched (and following all pandemic-related production and medical guidelines).
"She's always got sort of this straight-forward, accurate, amusing opinion about what to do," he continues. "It's Heather's world and we're just living in it. I always say I'm just a little squirrel in Heather's world just trying to get a few nuts."
"You have plenty of nuts, dear," Heather quips, joining the call from the couple's Orange County home.
Terry says his wife of 21 years is actually the person who gave him the best advice he's ever taken: "Treat people as if there is a camera on you and an audience is watching."
"I always say, parent like someone's watching," Heather notes. "I think that if you knew people were watching you and you were being held accountable, you would really be your best self -- I think Housewives may prove otherwise to that theory … maybe we get a little comfortable there."
The Dubrows' parenting skills were on full display for the world to see just weeks ago when their 16-year-old daughter, Max, announced on Instagram that she is bisexual, posing with a gay pride flag and writing, "I always knew I was bi, I just thought it was bipolar."
"Oh my gosh, it just makes me cry," Heather shares of the response to Max’s moment, which garnered national media attention. "I just loved it so much."
Max posted her announcement on the last day of LGBTQ Pride Month, June, without any forewarning to her parents. Heather says she and Max had a pretty open dialogue about Max’s sexuality, but didn't realize she was going to proclaim it to the world.
"I think as parents, what makes me so happy is that she is so confident and comfortable in who she is and has our full support," Heather says. "I knew for a long time -- she had discussed this with me, for a long time -- but I loved how it was just like, and then it was just Tuesday, you know? And that's just the way it should be."
"I always weirdly knew and so, when she posted it, it was like, duh!" Terry admits. "Look, there's a lot of problems, societally, that we're working through now and we need to continue working through, but it made me feel good that at least, in today's world, one of the brighter spots is that you don't have to be embarrassed or insecure or anxious, necessarily, about coming out."
"She felt free and the acceptance of her coming out was so amazing," he adds.
Heather says she got Max's permission to repost the announcement on her own Instagram page, which is followed by more than 1.5 million accounts.
"I love her confidence, and I love -- I just loved it all, and I thought the response was amazing. Of course, my mother called me and she's like, 'Why did I have to find out that my granddaughter is bi on ET?'" Heather confesses, with a laugh.
"Something that was so exciting for me is that I come from a very, like, very 'nice family,' but very, like, 1950s, buttoned up. No one talks about anything," she says. "So knowing this for some time, it was so exciting to me that she just felt ready to tell the world and she was so confident about it. And it was so… such the opposite of how I grew up that I just felt like this family and this DNA is evolving and I love it. And again, just as a parent … you want your kids to be happy -- that's No. 1 -- but to be able to see your kids be happy and just putting it out there, it just feeds my soul."
Heather and Terry share four kids altogether: Max and her twin brother, Nick, as well as 13-year-old Katarina, aka Kat, and 9-year-old Collette, who goes by Coco.
For Heather, it was a "proud parent" moment, giving herself a pat on the back during the interview. The Dubrows hope that Max sharing her truth and all the positivity surrounding her announcement can help kids who feel ready to come out also feel accepted, and show families who may not be immediately accepting of the LGBTQ community to take stock of why they feel that way and how it will affect their kids.
"I have gotten so many messages, not just when Max came out but also because our youngest daughter, Coco, likes to wear 'boy clothes,' and she's been a point of conversation for many years," Heather says. "I've gotten so many messages from people … about how they wished they had been different with their kids. They wished they listened to kids [who] have gone down the wrong path after not getting the correct support that they needed."
"We all come from where we come from," she continues. "You can't control where you come from, but you can control where you go to. So, really listen to your kids and be less reactive, and keep an open mind and understanding that where you come from might not be the same place where your kids are going to, and try to figure it out, ‘cause at the end of the day, this is your family. This is who we have. And if the last few months have taught us nothing, we have to stay together and stay close and love each other."
"My advice in these situations for parents is do more listening than talking," Terry adds. "When you are talking, remember it's not about you. It's about your child. So even if you have preconceived notions, and even if you have sort of prejudices based on the way you were raised, let it go. Listen. Shut up and do whatever needs to be done to make sure your child is happy and well-balanced. That's what you do."
Heather and Terry say Max is already dating and bringing people home for them to meet, and they "love how it's all no big deal."
"We are so lucky to have these four healthy, amazing kids," she gushes. "They're not perfect. We're not perfect. We're doing the best we can. … We don’t know everything, but we're smart enough to know we don't know everything. We haven't experienced absolutely everything, but we do have our own experiences. So you listen, you keep your mouth shut, you try to figure it out and you just support. And that's what we do for each other, too. I mean, that's relationships in general."
The pair hopes to bring their relationship expertise (they've been together for nearly a quarter of a century) to TV with a new project in development at E!, The Seven Year Stitch, on which couples experiencing growing pains, aka the seven-year itch, will be offered access to experts -- including plastic surgeons -- to better their relationship or realize it's time to go their separate ways. Terry says the show is "the best" piece of reality TV he and Heather have been involved with, but Heather isn't convinced it will stop people from asking her about returning to RHOC one day, joking she'll still be fielding questions about Housewives from her deathbed. She exited the Bravo series at the end of its 11th season in 2016.
At the time, Heather announced she was leaving the series on her own terms via her successful podcast, Heather Dubrow’s World. But recently, her former co-star, Tamra Judge, went on a different podcast, the Real Housewives gossip show Behind the Velvet Rope, and claimed that Heather was forced out of the show due to behind-the-scenes issues with executives at the network. Tamra didn't get too specific, though, and Heather would prefer people ask her directly if they have any questions about her and Housewives.
"You know, no one should speak for me except me. So, if you want to know, ask me," she says. "But I will tell you this: I was five seasons on the show, which was an amazing run and there are so many great, fun moments on that show, and Terry and I got so much for being on the show. It did so much for our platform. It's brought so many amazing things to our family."
"Even with my daughter, Max, that's why she has a platform and that's why she had a moment to speak out," she adds. "She's actually starting a podcast, which I'm so excited about and she's giving a voice to teenagers that are maybe going through the same thing that she is in becoming aware of who she is as a person, and sexually and all these things -- and I love it -- and that is all based on the fact that we got catapulted into the spotlight from being on Housewives. So, I’m always forever grateful."
Check out the Dubrows on Celebrity Call Center, premiering with back-to-back episodes on Monday at 10 p.m. ET/PT on E!