One of “The Real Housewives of Salt Lake City” is proving to be a bit of an enigma to viewers who are familiar with Utah’s predominant religion. Lisa Barlow is a Latter-day Saint, but she owns liquor companies? And she drinks alcohol herself?
“I’m Jewish by heritage, and I’m active LDS,” Barlow said. “But I also practice it my own way.
“You can live it the way you want to, you just might not be able to go in the pretty building,” she said with a laugh. “The church is an open door. The temple — that’s a whole ‘nother thing.”
In other words, no, she doesn’t have a temple recommend, necessary to enter the temples of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and participate in its highest ordinances. The card attests to the holder’s adherence to church principles and practices, and alcohol is forbidden by its health code, the Word of Wisdom.
Born and raised in New York with five siblings, Lisa converted to the LDS Church there. “I actually think I have a way better life because I became LDS in New York,” she said. She came west to attend Brigham Young University, and now in her 40s, she’s lived in Utah for more than 20 years.
She said her “untraditional” way to practice the faith is to be “authentic to yourself and take from the religion what resonates with you and what’s good for your family. Because maybe not everything is good for your family.”
Seth Marks, the husband of fellow Housewife Meredith Marks, “dubbed me Mormon 2.0, and it kind of stuck.”
It’s similar to the approach to the faith that writer Jana Reiss saw as she wrote “The Next Mormons: How Millennials Are Changing the LDS Church.” There’s a sizable minority, her researcher, Benjamin Knoll, observed, “who find value in the social aspect of the church but who don’t believe wholeheartedly in LDS Church teachings, don’t pay tithing, don’t hold a temple recommend, and who drink coffee and alcohol and take the counsel of church leaders with a grain of salt.”
If anybody has a problem with the way Lisa lives her life and her religion, she’s not letting it bother her. “I hope people see you can own an alcohol brand — you can own any business — and still practice a religion that you love, the way you need to and want to,” she said.
And she’s hoping to shatter some false stereotypes viewers may have about church members.
“I have a strong love of God and family. And that’s how most Christians are,” Lisa said. “So I think they’re going to say, ‘Oh, it’s not as different as I thought.’ I think some people have these odd misconceptions.”
Including, of course, that members still practice polygamy — which the church formally abandoned in 1890, although it lingered among members into the next century in practice. “My husband only has one wife and that’s me. And it’s always going to be just me,” she said with a laugh.
And she wants to make it clear that for her, following her faith (which opposes same-sex marriage) doesn’t stop her from being “super inclusive.”
“I definitely think I’m more progressive as an LDS person,” Lisa said. “... We’re very involved with Equality Utah and the LGBTQIA community.”
One of her grandfathers was gay, she noted.
“My grandfather died with a boyfriend. So I understand. I take the time to not judge anything and just understand,” she said. “One of my really good friends is gay and part of the LDS Church. And I think it’s important to know [the church is] inclusive.”
‘Go be adventurous’
The primary reason Lisa signed on to “Real Housewives of Salt Lake City,” she said, was that the producers wanted to cast women who operate their own successful companies. She owns and runs businesses with her husband, John — including Vida Tequila and LUXE Marketing.
“My whole goal in coming on the show was to show women that you don’t have to just play one role,” she said. “You don’t have to just be a mom, or just be a working mom. Go be adventurous. Try multiple things. If you fail, that’s fine, too. Stretch yourself. To me, it’s living life to the fullest.”
But filming the show on top of everything else going on in her life — particularly during the 2020 Sundance Film Festival — wasn’t easy, she added.
“There were tough times,” Lisa said. “I mean, I had to do over 40 [LUXE Marketing] events during Sundance while filming, raising two kids and running our other businesses. And it was a lot.”
She also “put a lot out there,” she said, during production on Season 1.
“At the end of the day, I just hope that it’s in some way inspiring for someone,” Lisa said. “I just hope that people feel like, ‘Hey, if Lisa can work, run multiple businesses and constantly be looking for a new adventure, maybe I can, too.’”
Lisa said she’s has “thick skin” and is not feeling stress about how she comes across in “RHOSLC,” and the negative feedback that comes her way.
“I think you definitely have to be resilient” to be on the show, she said. “I think one thing that I was born with was an innate confidence. So for me, if someone thinks I’m ugly, it’s like, ‘OK, I’m sorry you don’t find me attractive. But, OK. Move on.’”
So far in Season 1, both Heather Gay and Whitney Rose have both been irked at Lisa, leading to some relatively minor conflict. Lisa, however, has been on the sidelines trying to make peace during the big blowups — including multiple showdowns between Jen Shah and Mary Cosby.
“I am really good at conflict resolution,” she said. “I’m not comfortable with it, but I’m definitely not afraid of it.”
It’s a skill she’s learned from childhood on — from dealing with siblings to leading her businesses today.
“I’ve been doing deals since I was in my early 20s. I definitely feel like I have a backbone,” she said. “So if someone’s creating conflict with me, I’m definitely not shying away from it. I want to resolve it.”
Still, while dealing with the other women in “RHOSLC,” “there were days when I felt exhausted — two, in particular. I just felt drained,” Lisa said. “I was, like, ‘I’ve never been around this kind of crazy before.’”
It was very different than dealing with problems at work.
“I know how to handle those,” she said, “but when you’re dealing with so many emotions and so many different women all at once, that’s a whole different ball game. But I think we all made it through.
“It doesn’t mean everything had a happy ending, but there was definitely progress.”
Lisa is hoping viewers will get a better look at the work her family is doing to benefit Utah Foster Care in upcoming episodes of “RHOSLC.” With the help of their parents, her sons — Jack, 16, and Henry, 8 — launched Fresh Wolf, a line of grooming products for men. And for each item sold, they donate a product to a foster child.
It’s personal for the Barlow family.
“John was given up at birth, adopted, returned, then adopted into a family. And, in between that, spent a short time in foster care,” Lisa said. “Luckily, my husband had an amazing experience with being adopted by a beautiful family. But not everybody gets that.”
The Barlows hope to help “shine a light” on foster care parents.
“A lot of people think that people take in foster care kids for money,” Lisa said. “To board my dog is an average of $45 to $70 a day … and then when you look at foster kids, the parents get $15 a day per kid. They’re not in it for the money.
“I hope you get to see [Jack and Henry] and why they want to give back — what that means to them.”