Lydia McLaughlin is the newest cast member of Bravo’s drama-filled reality series “The Real Housewives of Orange County.” But the 32-year-old magazine editor and jewelry designer wasn’t always an O.C. woman. McLaughlin called La Jolla home for her high school years, and graduated on to the University of San Diego before following in her family’s footsteps in the media industry. She now resides in Dana Point with her husband, Doug, and their two sons Stirling (4) and Maverick (2).
Season 8 of Bravo’s original “Housewives” show premiered on Monday, April 1. We caught up with McLaughlin for a sneak preview of what we can expect to see in the O.C.
Q: You’re the newest housewife in O.C.! How did you get involved with the Bravo franchise?
A: My husband and I have a magazine, and we did a big feature on the Beverly Hills Housewives. Lisa writes a column for us, and we also did a photo shoot with Brandi. I guess Bravo heard about me through those connections, and one of the casting producers reached out about the O.C. show.
Q: You initially said no to Bravo producers. Why?
A: I was nervous, like any normal person would be! Have you seen the show? I love my life, love my family. I’m very protective of my marriage. I’m honestly the complete antithesis of a Housewife. I’ve never thrown anyone in a pool, or thrown wine in someone’s face! I didn’t think I was the right fit. And I didn’t want to be famous. I’ve never had those aspirations. It seemed like a lot of risk, but not a lot of reward.
Q: So what changed your mind? Why’d you say yes?
A: When I met with the producers, I was very honest. I wanted them to know who I am. And then it all started to make sense. I used to live across the street from Alexis, and our kids go to the same school. Actually, my mom moved into her old house! I run in the same circle as the Housewives.
I thought if I said no, I would always wonder -- what if? At the end of your life, you never regret the risks you take. I decided that I could be a positive role model on the show.
Q: How are you different from the other Housewives?
A: I think I’m really unique. I am super carefree, a free spirit. It will be hard to pin point my character and put me in a box. I am Christian, but I grew up with hippie parents. I moved to India to make a documentary right after I got married.
Q: It seems that every Housewife has drama with Slade Smiley. What is your take on him?
A: Did someone tip you off to this question? Oh, I have an opinion on Slade… we don’t really care for each other. He is very opinionated, but he doesn’t like to be accountable for it. I’m a sweet, nice person, but I’m also very direct. I’ll go straight up to you and communicate. So, we had some adult conversations.
Q: What else can you tell us about Season 8?
A: I lived in San Diego for 10 years, but I also lived in Canada. In this season, I take the ladies on a trip to my home town in Canada. The trip was my idea, to get them out of their element and into the snow. I wanted them to get to know me.
There are many trips. We also go wine tasting for the weekend. And there is a wedding in the works, so we have a bachelorette party trip for Tamra in Mexico. It was only a couple days, but there was so much drama! I had never been to a bachelorette party before.
Q: Before joining the cast, were you a fan of the show?
A: I actually didn’t watch the O.C. Housewives. But I think that was good for me. I know pop culture, so I always knew who the women were. But I didn’t know the drama. I was naïve, so it made me more authentic. I had heard things, but I didn’t go into the show wanting to like someone or not.
I did watch the Beverly Hills seasons, because we are close with Lisa and the other ladies through the magazine. But it’s so different to watch the show at home for entertainment, and to be a part of the show. To be there at the table with all the yelling and the cursing. It’s a whole other level! I’m Italian, I thought I was a strong woman!
Q: Give us a rundown of your professional life. You have so much going on!
A: My husband and I met when I was a producer, doing documentary films and wedding videos. We got together and started a media company -- SKYLAB Media Group. We are very artsy people, and we wanted to have our office in Laguna. But the exact spot we wanted had to be a store, because of permitting. So, we opened an art gallery to get into the space, and we moved our office upstairs. SKYLAB Modern Art ended up being its own business, and it’s still successful.
From the gallery, our current partner approached us to launch a magazine. Now we have Beverly Hills Lifestyle magazine, and we love it. I’m drawn to fashion. I’ve been more of a fashion editor, the feminine voice of the magazine. I always love talking to stylists during photo shoots, to learn about the industry. My husband is actually the one who encouraged me to start my own jewelry line, Lydia M Jewelry.
Q: With so many businesses, a family and a new show, what is your key to finding balance?
A: It’s a daily struggle. As a mom, there’s a part of you that will always be guilty. Being out at a meeting, when you have your kids at home. We’re trying to figure out if we want to have another kid now, or if we want to start another business. There is no quick answer. For me, in the mornings I have quiet time, to be grateful and to focus on what is important to me. My family is most important, and I cherish the quiet time with them. The day just flows from there.
Q: Let’s talk fashion. Your favorite trends for summer?
A: Black and white is cool for summer. It’s very clean, and with a tan, it looks unexpectedly great for summer. I’m also into pastels, especially the mint color. I love the romance of summer fashion.
Q: What are your TV guilty pleasures?
A: I love “The Voice!” I’m so loving Shakira this season. My husband and I always watch “Shark Tank,” and take in all the business ideas. And of course I love “Fashion Police!”
Q: So you’re an O.C. Housewife now, but you spent many years in San Diego. Any favorite memories?
A: So many great memories in San Diego! I went to junior high and high school in La Jolla. I was always traveling back and forth to Canada, so I wanted to stay in San Diego for college. I went to USD, lived in Mission Beach, and I was in the Alpha Phi sorority. I love Windansea beach, and La Valencia.
“The Real Housewives of Orange County” airs Mondays at 8/7C on Bravo. For more information, visit bravotv.com. You can follow Lydia on Twitter @OCLydia.
Credits: Photographer: Rod Foster; Hair/Makeup: Nicole Sayer