'RHONY': Heather Thomson Explains Decision to Cut Her Return Short Amid Drama With Leah McSweeney (Exclusive)
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While she might be the queen of shouting "Holla!," Heather Thomson apparently -- to borrow a phrase from Gwen Stefani -- ain’t no hollaback girl. The Real Housewives of New York City alum gave a return to the show a shot in season 13 (she last appeared as a full-time cast member in 2015, and made cameo appearances in pretty much every season since), but after one fateful weekend at Ramona Singer's home in the Hamptons, Heather determined it just wasn’t for her.
"I get 24 hours in the day, just like you do and just like everybody else does," Heather tells ET over video chat. "When it came to deciding how I wanted to spend that 24 hours after that weekend, it was pretty easy for me to decide it wasn't with the girls."
Heather says Bravo first approached her about coming back to RHONY in a more official capacity after her brief appearance at a dinner party in season 12 lit up social media, with viewers responding to the 51-year-old like never before -- not even during her three-season tenure as a full-time 'Wife.
"I couldn't go back full time, I talked to Bravo execs about that, so a 'friend of' the show sounded really great," she admits. "The trips, the cast trips, were a time when there was just the women. There weren't a lot of extras. When I was on, there were husbands and boyfriends and all kinds of people. It's really more insular now, with all the women being single. I thought that I could lean into that [for] this season for the show. But, ultimately, that's not how it worked out for me, but that's OK."
Heather broke the news of her original departure from RHONY with ET back in 2015, describing her choice to leave as an attempt to "get off the hamster wheel." At the time, she was expanding her business, Yummie by Heather Thomson (a shapewear and clothing line she sold in 2016), parenting her then-preteen children, Jax and Ella, now 16 and 14, respectively, and contemplating a return to school, which she ultimately did, getting certified in health coaching and nutrition ahead of the launch of her latest business venture, a range of supplements called Beyond Fresh.
"I think that time is a big cure all, it also helps you forget things and it just seemed like the right time," Heather explains of why, five years after quitting, she felt ready to return to the show. "When they asked me to come back, I knew that it was going to be a tight cast. I knew that it was going to probably be a tight season, because we had just been through this pandemic -- and we're still coming through it. I like to lean into things when I feel like I can help, you know what I mean? I thought maybe I had some old relationships that were deep and they had, still, some unfinished business, maybe, that I felt like we could talk about again and figure that out, but I didn't really get a chance to do it."
Heather planned to film all season long with the main cast of Housewives, which includes women who were on the show during her original run -- Ramona, Luann de Lesseps and Sonja Morgan -- as well as two new additions, Eboni K. Williams and Leah McSweeney. Heather cites the latter as the main reason why she pulled the plug on finishing out season 13. She's slated to appear in just three episodes, the first of which aired last week and set the stage for her friction-filled experience with Leah.
The 38-year-old Married to the Mob designer took issue with some comments Heather made about the women of RHONY on her podcast, In My Heart, and on Watch What Happens Live With Andy Cohen in the lead-up to her return to the show. Namely, Heather saying she "liked Sonja’s old face" when asked about her co-star's recent facelift on WWHL (a compliment, in Heather’s eyes), as well as calling Luann "inauthentic" and making mention of marijuana and "stronger drugs" coming out on the memorable cast trip to St. Barts in season 5, in a podcast episode featuring her fellow RHONY alum Carole Radziwill.
After first beating around the bush (not the one Luann fell into in Mexico, though) by asking questions about Heather’s podcast, Leah flat out confronted Heather about her statements during a Breakfast at Tiffany’s themed dinner by reading quotes from the podcast aloud to the group. In an unexpected twist, Luann, Sonja and Ramona -- avid readers of Page Six and users of Google alerts -- were unaware of Heather's remarks before Leah brought them to their attention.
"I wasn't really taken aback by the fact that the podcast got brought up, I was taken aback by the fact that it was taken totally out of context and that it was... I call it the Housewives grinder," Heather says of the moment. "You take the information, you put it through the Housewives grinder and you spit it out on the other side. It looks like nothing like it did going in. So, truth be told, the podcast was Carole and I reminiscing. I hope everybody listens about our experiences, seven years ago."
"Never in a million years did I think I was going to be talking to Bravo about returning when I did the podcast," she notes, "which by the way, I wouldn't have changed anything, if I knew I was. My relationship with Luann was not existent. It crumbled after I left the show, it wasn't really there. I talk honestly about that. I always felt Luann left me holding the bag all the time on the show. She would do these things, then I would get stuck holding the bag and be like the bad person over, because she wanted me to lie."
Heather makes mention of the St. Barts trip, where Luann asked Heather to say she partied with "a bunch of Italians," when in reality, Luann spent the night with a man named Tomas Ribiero, whom superfans know as "the pirate," the man who seemingly hooked up with both Luann and Sonja within a 24-hour stretch (to this day, Luann denies anything happened between the two). Heather says her main intention for returning to RHONY was to see if the once-close relationship she shared with Luann could be repaired, but she never found out.
"It is what it is," she laments. "Luann and I aren't really friends. I mean, I wouldn't consider someone who I don't talk to -- in years -- friends. I was surprised, because we were friends. I thought we were friends, and what I found -- and I said it on the podcast and I said it on the show and I'll say it again -- that wasn't genuine on Luann's side. It was genuine on my side, but it wasn't genuine on her side. I felt a little used up by the show, that I was a 'show friend.' But that's not how I work in life. Luann, I wish she would tell me something different. She hasn't told me anything different. In fact, when I [originally] left the show, I got phone calls. People really wanted me to return. They didn't want me to leave. I never heard from Luann. So… it just shows you that she doesn't really give a s**t. That's OK. I don't have to either."
When Luann found out that Heather’s comments came from a podcast with Carole, she blurted out “that b***h!” before the show cut to a confessional interview, in which Luann called Carole, whose last name is Radziwill, "Rats-ville." For those who don’t recall, Luann turned on Carole after the Widow’s Guide to Sex and Dating author started dating chef Adam Kenworthy, who previously dated Luann’s niece. Luann viewed it as a violation of "girl code" (she’d go on to record a song by that name) and rudely (and inaccurately) dubbed Carole a "pedophile," a dig at the pair’s 20-year age difference. It must be noted that both Carole and Adam were consenting adults while they were together.
"I think the Rats-ville comment, and Carole would agree, that's Housewives stuff," Heather remarks. "That's funny. I mean, that makes you laugh and chuckle. It's the lowest common denominator, dirt, calling someone a pedophile, trying to make up and drum up fake drama about somebody. That's the kind of stuff that's not real."
Heather says "a lot changed" and "wildly changed" since she last filmed in 2014. Ahead of season 13's premiere, Heather made more eye-opening comments on a different podcast, Friends of Dorothy, claiming she was "assaulted" while filming with Leah. When asked if she meant physically, Heather pulls out a trademark Housewives line: "I guess you’re going to have to wait and tune in and see."
"I said it very-- the sensation in media these days really is something else," she adds. "I mean, I actually am 'in quotes' on things that I've never even said. It's just so funny. But it is the show and it is kind of the atmosphere of the show. So my intention was to lean into the project, you know what I mean? That was really my intention."
"I didn't think that I was going to escape drama," Heather admits. "I was ready to say my piece and talk about some of the things I felt with Luann and Ramona and Sonja, and really lean into meeting the new girls and letting those relationships naturally occur."
"I don't know if it actually makes it, but we do talk a little bit about the toaster oven," she teases, referencing Sonja’s now-mythical business venture, which Heather attempted to help get off the ground in season 5 by lending her years of branding experience to the serial sort-of entrepreneur.
"We do get tiny, little pieces of what I wanted to talk about, what I thought the fans wanted to talk about, and why I was excited to go back with the girls," she continues. "The new girls for me were a whole new horizon of like, whoa. What's it going to be? I never got a chance to do that."
As the Hamptons weekend continues to unfold on screen, viewers will see more heated exchanges between Heather and Leah. One teased in the season trailer shows Leah asking Heather, "Why do you have to be in everyone’s business like a Karen?"
"Well, there's a lot of projection going on in that scene, in my opinion, just generally speaking, that weekend," Heather teases. "I keep getting kind of railroaded by one of the new girls on the show who just has her own agenda."
Heather alleges that Leah "was a fan of the show" and prejudged her based off of her "edited character" in seasons 5, 6 and 7, where she was dubbed a “know it all” and “a preacher” by the likes of Bethenny Frankel and Dorinda Medley.
"Obviously it's who I am, but I would never want people to judge any Housewife for their edited character on a show," Heather says. "They're all human beings with deep histories and a lot that you don't get to see on the show. But that's what I think it was, is that I was bound and hung by her because of how she interpreted my character on the show years ago."
When news of Heather and Leah's tiff first hit the fan blogs, Leah posted (then deleted) a lengthy Instagram story which read, "I don't like women who slut shame other women, act morally superior to other women, plastic surgery shame other women, gossip about other women doing drugs when you know damn well they've done drugs also. And lastly, I don't like when white women call black women articulate, especially while acting like the queen of wokeness."
"There’s a lot of projection going on there," Heather reacts. "There's a lot of ways I would describe me. I would never use the word 'woke' to describe myself. Like I said, I feel like she's describing herself. That really has nothing... I don't fit into any of that description. I've never done those things. So she's putting it in a grinder and making it into something that she wants. I think she wants to put her kind of stake in the sand so that she has her flag to stand by. But it's droopy and it ain't no wind."
Leah has since apologized for how she treated Heather that weekend, noting that she was dealing with the death of her grandmother at the time; but it seems Heather hasn't accepted that apology or, at the least, is unaware of it. This feud, if one can call it that, might have no end in sight. In May, Leah alleged to ET that Heather was "planting stories" about their disagreements, and claimed that the RHONY alum underestimated "the dynamic" of the group.
"Listen, when all I know about you is that you constantly put down every woman in the group on your podcast, then I just don't understand why you're coming to hang out with us," she said. "And I'm wondering if I'm gonna be the next person you talk about on your podcast. And I'm also thinking, what are the ulterior motives for you to come hang out with us when you've literally said the nastiest things about each person? You don't like Sonja's new face. You accuse Luann of doing some really bad stuff. I just don't understand what you're doing here."
Heather says Leah is "definitely a factor" in any future decisions to return to RHONY, hinting she’d be much more willing to come back if Leah was no longer part of the group.
"I wasn't really impressed to be honest," Heather says of Leah. "I didn't know about any of her issues that I know about now, or the things that she's been trying to overcome and struggle with. I wish her the best on, on that journey."
"I felt very unfulfilled and I felt like this is not really a good use of my time," she reiterates. "That's really what I was left feeling. And nobody else made me feel that way."
Heather however notes that she would "never close the door on opportunity" and that "one person is not going to change that."
"I made a decision," she says. "I tested the waters, I didn't sign the contract. I didn't come back, but I never say never. Who knows what the future of Housewives will be? I hope it's a long positive one. I think casting is hugely important to these shows and I actually saw just recently that New York has a huge casting blanket out for their shows. So, I wish them all the best with that. If there's any way that I can lean in and help, I would want to lean in and help. But I wasn't interested in doing that with the current cast this season."
After Heather’s first episode back aired, Leah reposted a meme that suggested that Heather and Carole thought they were "too good for" or "better than" the show, a comment to which Heather takes offense.
"We're not the type of people that look down our noses at people, we certainly don't judge people," she says. "I like a big mixed bag of people. Going back to Luann, in fact, I used to always say, ‘I wish you would just be who you are instead of this ‘Class with the Countess.’ I wish you'd just be the party fun animal that you are.’ I really want authenticity in people. I love a good slut, you know what I mean? But just be who you are."
"I am certainly who I am," Heather continues. "I embrace and accept a plethora of individuals. Just because something's not for me, I certainly don't judge it for somebody else. I can say the exact same thing for my bestie, Carole, but I don't see that behavior, actually, coming from Leah McSweeney. So, again, I'm going to say there's a lot of projection going on. She's calling out people about the things that she actually does."
The Real Housewives of New York City airs Tuesdays at 9 p.m. ET/PT on Bravo. Heather’s podcast, In My Heart, debuts new episodes weekly wherever you listen to podcasts.
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