'RHOSLC's Lisa Barlow Breaks Down the 'I Don't Know Heather Gay' Drama and More From Season 1 (Exclusive)
By Brice Sander
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Of course Lisa Barlow knows her The Real Housewives of Salt Lake City co-star, Heather Gay (she even takes credit for getting the Beauty Lab and Laser owner cast on the new Bravo hit), they just disagree on for how long.
"I didn't realize Heather and I had so much history -- like, so much history," the Vida Tequila owner quips to ET over video chat. "That shocked me."
RHOSLC hit TV screens in November with a feud right out the gate: Lisa vs. Heather, in an "I don’t know her" battle that’s becoming the Housewives equivalent to the Mariah Carey and Jennifer Lopez incident of the early aughts. Heather claims she's known Lisa since they attended college together in the '90s at Brigham Young University. Lisa says they only met a few years ago.
"Heather and I have a mutual friend named Angela," Lisa explains. "Three years ago, Angela asked me to donate product for Heather's 'Black Friday' sale. I never met Heather. I sent tequila and mixers and a bartender [to her storefront], and I was happy to do that. I love supporting other women in business."
Lisa says she and Heather didn't even come face to face until months later at a separate event, where Heather was offering her med spa services at a pop-up shopping experience put on by the ladies' now co-star Meredith Marks in Park City, Utah, as documented on Lisa’s Instagram (Beauty Lab and Laser seemingly used to go by the name Visage Med Spa).
"Meredith and I didn't know Heather at all, but we were happy to support her and include her," Lisa offers. "I thought Heather was super nice when I met her, super funny. I don't know why she wants to say we have all this history but she's more than welcome to provide proof. I think that's going to be a lot of work for her. She'd have to fabricate stuff. The fact that she's painting me as this mean, dismissive girl to paint a narrative for herself is not cool. Not cool at all. I was actually generous and kind to her."
In the premiere episode, Lisa told Jen Shah that she had no real recollection of Heather from their college days, while Heather was adamant that the women had been in each other’s lives "for 20 years."
"It's basically telling America -- the world -- that Lisa Barlow is a mean girl and she's being so dismissive we have all this history," Lisa laments. "Since then she's changed her tune, 'I’ve known of Lisa Barlow...' There's a big difference."
"Let’s give the example here: like, I know ofLisa Rinna," she adds. "We're both Housewives, we have mutual friends -- it doesn't mean I know Lisa Rinna. I would never claim to know Lisa Rinna. I mean, it's the same situation. I always feel like I have been super kind to Heather. I'm gonna continue to be super kind to Heather, and I hope she's just like, 'Haha! Just kidding!' at some point, because it's ridiculous."
Complicating the pair’s already complicated relationship is the fact that Lisa shared what seemed to be a vague memory of Heather in college, telling Jen that she heard stories about Heather skirting BYU’s honor code. Lisa confesses that those stories came her way only recently, and it was all secondhand. She never saw Heather breaking rules in college, because she never saw Heather in college.
"The story I told about her being not a 'good-time girl,' but a good time, came from a friend of mine," she admits. "The week or so before we started filming, she goes, ‘Oh my God! Is Heather Gay on Housewives?’ And I'm like, yeah, and she's like, 'When I was in high school, I went to [a youth seminar] at BYU and Heather and I hung out a little bit, she was so fun and she's like, 'Whoo!' flashing and being dumb teenage kids.'"
"It's not like Heather broke the honor code or anything like that," she adds. "It was a simple story that I heard a week before we started filming and I thought it was funny. I could picture Heather doing that. It's funny. Apparently, it wasn't so funny for Heather."
Heather has called the allegation "flattering, but false," and labeled Lisa as "dismissive and arrogant and also a little bit crazy." Heather has also questioned whether Lisa is embarrassed by her, seeing as she’s divorced and distancing herself from the Mormon Church. Lisa says she’s been shocked by Heather’s response to what she thought was an innocuous story, and promises that she doesn't think poorly of Heather, even though Lisa seems to believe Heather now thinks poorly of her.
"I was a little taken aback with how she was describing me," she notes, before shutting Heather's notions down with, "I own alcohol brands and my husband is divorced. I’m his second wife."
Lisa describes herself as "Mormon 2.0," following the gospel but not necessarily the cultural aspects of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Lisa converted to Mormonism, giving her a different perspective on the religion than Heather and co-star Whitney Rose, who were both born into it. Whitney parted ways with the Church over a decade ago. In the first few episodes of RHOSLC, Heather and Whitney have painted Lisa as a bit of a "mean girl," who strives to project a perfect life and looks down on those who don't do the same. Lisa says that's simply not true.
"I'm totally not perfect," she says. "I don't even cook for my kids. I go through Taco Bell. I, literally, am one of those moms that's like, ‘Hey, let’s just do our best to get things done.’ I don't have an infatuation with perfection. I like to be my best self. That doesn't mean perfect, that means trying a little harder every day to be a little bit better and to do something a little better."
"What is perfect anyway?" she asks. "I don't even know what that means."
Even so, in the season trailer, Lisa does tell Heather and Whitney, "I hold myself to a high standard. If you don’t want the same standards, go away!" She says the two push her to a bit of a breaking point, casting their own issues onto her.
"I call them the projectors," she jokes. "I’m like, get the popcorn. Here comes the projectors!"
"We get to this place where I feel like I'm constantly being told who I am, how I think, how I feel," she shares. "I don't like other people talking for me, so it gets to a point that they're judging me so much constantly, trying to figure out, am I judging them? When, I really don't! I don't judge anybody. I don't really care what they're doing."
Lisa's tension with Whitney was also unexpected for the entrepreneur. In episode two, Whitney quietly confronted Lisa over an issue she experienced with the bartenders who served Lisa's tequila at the reception for Whitney’s vow renewal. Problem is, says Lisa, that those bartenders don’t work for her brand, so it really was not her problem.
"They're not employees of Vida -- we have no bartenders that are on our payroll, and her caterer would have to outsource bartenders," Lisa says. "She ended up outsourcing bartenders. I offered to pay for one of the bartenders."
Adding insult to injury for Lisa was seeing Whitney take a dig at her brand in a confessional, saying she prefers Casamigos over Vida. While Lisa owns Vida, she still paid out of pocket for the bottles she provided, as designated by Utah’s liquor laws.
"I’m like, why did you want it there? I spent thousands of dollars on product for you. For 50 people, we sent, like, 18 bottles. So I'm like, why did you even have it there? That part confused me," Lisa muses. "I wasn't even invited to the vow renewal, so that's what makes it super fishy. It's like, did you have my product there so you can have a problem with it? And would you have had this same problem if I had brought you your preferred favorite tequila that you drink?"
Lisa hints that tensions hit an all-time high for her, Whitney and Heather on the all-cast trip to Las Vegas, which will air in the coming weeks.
"Vegas, for me, emotionally drained me, literally," she says. "I needed to sleep for three days after Vegas. I didn’t sleep while we were there, chaos ensues and it was a lot, emotionally, for me to take in in a short period of time, between me and the girls, and all of the girls and each other."
Lisa joshes that she took inventory of which of her Vida buyers in Vegas (who also own private planes) were in town at the time of the trip so she could make a speedy getaway if need be.
"I went in with an escape plan," she jokes.
On top of the Vegas drama, there is also more to come on the Jen vs. Mary Cosby front. The pair is at the center of RHOSLC's main feud, with Jen upset with Mary for saying she "smelled like hospital" at an off-camera dinner, a dinner Jen attended after learning that her aunt had to have both her legs amputated. While she put the issue aside briefly, Jen became enraged again after learning that Meredith and Whitney were both being friendly with Mary. She causes a bit of a scene at Whitney's prohibition-themed party, which plays out on this week’s episode.
"I like Jen, I like Mary a lot, but I think in that instance, Jen was so hurt because it was an emotionally charged week," Lisa surmises, seeing as the one-year anniversary of Jen's father's death was also approaching. "She was already having hard feelings. Jen grows up in a very communal culture, where your family is involved in everything you do. Lot of family around you, lots of people around her all the time, and I think her feelings were devastated that Mary was saying she smelled like hospital because she didn’t know that Jen hadn’t gone to the hospital."
"That felt like such a dig," she says, pointing out that Jen never actually went to the hospital on the day of the dinner. "[But] I don’t think there’s anything so major that has happened that can’t be fixed."
After Jen leaves Whitney’s party in a huff, Mary organizes a luncheon in an attempt to smooth things over, but it would seem the opposite plays out.
"It just does not go well," Lisa recalls. "It’s a lot. I left with anxiety. I think I lost weight at the luncheon instead of gaining it."
Lisa says she had to "advance to" a Vida cocktail after leaving the lunch, where new issues between Mary and Lisa also surfaced, kicking off the drama for the second half of RHOSLC's debut season. Lisa says she's focusing on the positive things to come, though, including her work with her many brands -- even her sons are following in mom and dad’s entrepreneurial footsteps with their own line of grooming products, Fresh Wolf -- as well the Sundance Film Festival.
"I love Sundance and what I do at Sundance -- I’ve never called myself 'the Sundance queen,' Some people call me that and it’s usually the people I go out of my way for," she notes, responding to criticism by some frequent festival goers (including Vanderpump Rules star and Park City native Katie Maloney-Schwartz) who say they’ve never heard of Lisa.
"When you see the episode with me working so hard on Sundance, and how many events I do in such a short time, and who I’m doing these events with, I think everyone will understand who Lisa Barlow is," she promises. "I’m really proud of it."
Lisa's also excited for fans to see more of what Utah has to offer. The premiere episode garnered criticism from some Mormon lifestyle influencers, who didn't take kindly to insinuations made about the Church. For instance, Heather remarked that all the things she's drawn to in life, from rap music to the LGBTQ community and Black men, aren't endorsed by LDS followers. It's another thing that she and Lisa don’t agree on.
"I work really closely with Equality Utah for years. Mormons love gay people, Mormons love Black people," Lisa professes. "My grandfather was gay. My grandfather is in heaven. My grandfather is an amazing person, and when you hear people say things like that, like the blanket statements that were made, it’s really hard to digest. It’s not an accurate view of our state, our religion and definitely not the culture. I know plenty of gay members of the church."
"My friend, Dennis [Schleicher], is an amazing author and amazing advocate for gays in the LDS, and for the Church and culture," she adds. "And he has an amazing book and he shares his story about it, and I think we need to be sharing more experiences like that instead of the antiquated, polarizing statements that were made."
It’s just one more thing to unpack at the reunion, where Lisa says she’ll be happy to pull out some receipts to prove her points, including the text messages that she claims show she only met Heather three years ago. The Real Housewives of Salt Lake City airs Wednesdays at 10 p.m. ET/PT on Bravo.