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Among those who can be surprised when an episode of “The Real Housewives of Salt Lake City” airs on Bravo are the women in the show. Cast members don’t see the show beforehand, and they can be caught off guard.
Sure, they know what happened to them when they were being filmed. But they don’t know what other cast members were doing, thinking or saying. And they don’t know how episodes will be constructed.
Lisa Barlow said she had no idea that Heather Gay “had such strong opinions and feelings about me until I watched the first three or four episodes. That was all new to me.” She sounds amused about it now, but she didn’t feel that way when Season 1 of “RHOSLC” began airing back in November.
“It was not awesome,” she said with a laugh. “Honestly, the first first four episodes that aired, it was awful.” Not only was she “sent a lot of hate,” but she “wasn’t expecting it, either.”
Lisa was portrayed as the villain in a conflict she says she didn’t even know was happening until she watched it play out on TV. She and Heather both attended Brigham Young University at the same time and, while Heather recalled that they were friends, Lisa had few memories of Heather at all. Except for a vague recollection that Heather might have been “the fun one in the dorm” — and that maybe she flashed somebody while she was there.
In the Season 1-ending reunion episodes, Lisa said she and Heather met in 2017, and she shared a text exchange — apparently from that year — in which she texts, “Can’t wait to meet you in person” and Heather replies, “Same!!”
Heather has since acknowledged, on air, that she owes Lisa an apology.
But when the show premiered, Lisa was excoriated for how she was treating Heather, her alleged longtime friend. People who know her were upset when she came across as a cold-hearted villain in early episodes.
“One restaurant manager that we work closely with in Park City called me crying,” Lisa said. “She said, ‘I can’t watch another episode. That’s not even you.’ And my sisters were so upset.”
To paraphrase Jessica Rabbit in “Who Framed Roger Rabbit?” — Lisa isn’t bad, she was just edited that way.
“You can have the show shot by the same group and it could be edited 30 different ways,” she said. “So it’s perspective. I always say to my kids, perception is reality. And I think that that’s the case with the show.”
Heather’s resentment toward her is the only thing that surprised Lisa as Season 1 aired. She didn’t realize that Heather and Whitney Rose were discussing Meredith and Seth Marks’ marriage behind their backs.
“Meredith is very private, so she would drop little things like, ‘Oh, I think people are talking about my marriage.’ And I’m like, ‘Well, that would be upsetting,” Lisa said. (For that matter, she also didn’t know what was going on inside Meredith’s marriage.)
“I just know them as family friends,” she said. “And there’s certain things she shared and didn’t share. I learned about [Meredith’s separation] the same time the rest of the group did. And I didn’t realize until I was watching the show how much conversation was happening about her.”
(Meredith and Seth have since reconciled.)
Watching Season 1 also changed her perception of Jen Shah.
“I would see Jen show up and be fun at events, and then there’d be some hyperbolic moments. But for the most part, I didn’t see the trauma,” Lisa said. At the time, she didn’t see Jen “dealing with the death of her father and how that was affecting her,” she said. “So to watch that, I was like, ‘Wow, there was so much more going on than what I knew.’”
As Season 2 begins, Lisa is Jen’s one real friend among the cast members.
“I went into Season 2 rooting for Jen Shah. I was hoping people would see Jen like I see her,” Lisa said. “She does a lot of kind things for people and she has a lot of amazing attributes.”
She was, of course, shocked when Jen was later arrested on federal fraud charges. “It was intense,” Lisa said. “I went through a lot of emotions and they were real emotions. I’m not going to apologize for them.” Still, she says that “this situation isn’t going to change who I am. I’m still going to be the same kind of friend whether she is facing the hardest fight of her life or not.”
And, while it’s clear that some cast members are convinced Jen is guilty, Lisa said she is not. (Jen’s trial is currently scheduled to begin in March 2022.)
“One thing in America that I think is important is we’re innocent until proven guilty,” Lisa said. “So I hope people give Jen a chance.”
As for her own Season 1 notoriety, she’s learned to brush it off. “It’s part of the job,” she said.