Scott D. Pierce: Season 3 of ‘Real Housewives of SLC’ is full of fighting, and Heather Gay wouldn’t have it any other way

Mary and Jennie are gone, and Meredith and Lisa are battling.

(Chris Haston | Bravo) Whitney Rose, Lisa Barlow, Jen Shah, Meredith Marks and Heather Gay are "The Real Housewives of Salt Lake City." Season 3 of the show debuts Wednesday, Sept. 28, on Bravo.

“The Real Housewives of Salt Lake City” returns on Wednesday, and the fightin’, fussin’ and feudin’ resume immediately.

If you’re not fond of conflict, it can be exhausting to watch. But cast member Heather Gay is definitely not conflict averse.

“Are you kidding? I love it!” she said. “Sometimes I feel like we are squabbling over crusts of bread when there’s, like, meat underneath the table that we need to be addressing. …

“But the truth is, this process of being on the show has taught me that my perspective — no matter how morally superior I feel — is not the only perspective. We are five alpha women doing our best to navigate life based on our own personal stories. I think it’s a fascinating dive into individuation and culture and ego and narcissism.”

And Heather no longer feels conflicted about her participation in the show, the way she did when I interviewed her before it premiered in November 2020.

“The cloud of shame has definitely lifted,” she said. “I wasn’t sure about what I was doing two years ago. I was scared that I was, like, risking my birthright for a bowl of pottage. I felt that deeply. …

“And I was kind of indoctrinated to believe that I was giving up everything for this pit of vipers. Now, I realize that I’m a viper, too,” she said with a laugh.

When season 3 begins — Wednesday at 7 p.m. on Dish and DirecTV; 10 p.m. on Comcast — Meredith Marks is still furious with Lisa Barlow after a hot-mic rant her former bestie went on in season 2. And seemingly all the other Housewives get pulled into it.

(Natalie Cass/Bravo) Jennie Nguyen and Jen Shan on "The Real Housewives of Salt Lake City."

Mary and Jennie are gone

For now, there are just five official “Real Housewives of Salt Lake City” — Heather, Jen, Lisa, Meredith and Whitney Rose. Both Mary Cosby and Jennie Nguyen are gone, fired after season 2. Jennie was cut loose because of racist social media posts she made before she joined the cast this past season; Mary was axed when she failed to appear, as contractually obligated, for the season 2 reunion episodes.

Apparently, Cosby’s termination did not come because of the multiple racist things she said while being filmed for the show. Which was awkward, given that she was the only Black member of the cast. And Heather, who was often in conflict with Mary, doesn’t really want to talk about it.

(Photo courtesy of Bravo) Mary Cosby was not a happy woman in this episode of "The Real Housewives of Salt Lake City."

“Well, listen, I feel like it’s not my conversation to have,” Heather said. “I just thought — I have to yield to her and the fact that she grew up in Utah. The things she’s saying — are they projections? …

“Truth is, as much as Mary and I fought, I loved and admired her, too. And I’m sad that she’s not a part of the cast. And I deeply regret that she didn’t show up at the reunion.”

The series has added three women who are “friends” of the five returning Housewives, but Danna Bui-Negrete, Angie Harrington and Angie Katsanevas are not full-time cast members.

(Bravo) Heather Gay, left, and Jen Shah in a Season 2 episode of "The Real Housewives of Salt Lake City."

Before pleading guilty, Jen says she’s innocent

One thing that hasn’t changed since season 2 is that Jen is still swearing up and down that she’s innocent of the federal fraud charges against her. And Heather, her longtime friend, is giving Jen the benefit of the doubt.

So it came as a shock when Jen entered a guilty plea in July.

“The truth is, I invested in her and her claims of innocence up until the very, very last moment,” Heather said. “She swore on her husband’s life, on her kids’ lives, that she was innocent and that she was fighting this for all the people that couldn’t fight. …

“And then to hear her go in to the judge and kind of accept full accountability — say, ‘I did these things. I knew they were illegal. I knew it was wrong, and I’m sorry’ — that is a Jen Shah that I have never known and never met.”

Today, Heather said she has “as many questions as I think everybody has” about Jen.

(Bravo) A "Real Housewives of Salt Lake City" staffer, right, tries to hold Jen Shah back when Shah goes after Lisa Barlow, left, in a season 2 episode.

“Real Housewives” is (mostly) real

Heather pushed back at the idea that “Real Housewives” is fake. Well, that the women on it are fake. She said that it is “100%” true that there are times when some cast members only interact with other cast members because they’re contractually obligated to do so. “But that’s what makes the show great. That’s where the spark is, right?”

And once they get there, “nothing about it is fake. Nothing,” she said. “Not one emotion, not one phrase, not one anything. It is all a projection of who we think we are, who we want to be, and how we want to show up in the world. And I feel like it is the most honest thing I probably ever participated in.”

Which is not to say that being a “Real Housewife” puts any of them in the most favorable light. “When you have space and time [for] self-reflection, I think everyone is a better version of themselves,” Heather said. “But that’s not what the show wants. They just want us to be real. … I know and love each of these women. And I also despise and want to get away from each of these women. And they feel the same about me, to be clear. It’s a complicated relationship.”

(Nicole Weinagart | Bravo) Heather Gay and Lisa Barlow on "The Real Housewives of Salt Lake City" season 2 reunion.

Changed her life for the better

Heather admitted that she has a hard time watching the show. She views each episode just once, with her best friend/business partner, Dre Robinson, “who has the ability to just see things clearly. And sometimes we laugh out loud how funny and great it is, because it’s just effortless. But mostly I cringe.”

Unlike a lot of people who have appeared on a lot of reality shows, Heather does not complain about the way she is edited in “RHOSLC.”

“I never feel misrepresented because they can’t create something that wasn’t there. But I do feel shame [when] I went for an easy laugh. That I jumped on the bandwagon.”

Heather said that, knowing what she knows now, if she had a chance to go back and decide whether to join the “RHOSLC” cast she “absolutely” would. And not just because the exposure has boosted her business, Beauty Lave + Laser, in a big way.

“It has introduced me to a community that I never saw outside of that wall of shame that I was living under” as a non-believing member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, she said. “And it also forced me to live honestly and be accountable for my life. … The opportunities it presented me with and the community it has introduced me to has been life changing and, honestly, the greatest gift that I’ve been given outside of my kids.”

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