Getting a divorce from a BYU quarterback prepared one woman for ‘Real Housewives of SLC’

Angie Harrington developed a “thick skin” when she broke up with Bret Engemann.

(Chris Haston | Bravo) Angie Harrington appears as a "friend" on "The Real Housewives of Salt Lake City."

Getting divorced from a Brigham Young University quarterback turned out to be great “Real Housewives of Salt Lake City” training for Angie Harrington.

“I’ve learned not to care what people think,” she told The Salt Lake Tribune. “I had a very public divorce in Utah Valley. And my ex-husband was kind of the golden boy of Provo. So that prepared me for reality television.”

(Rick Egan | The Salt Lake Tribune) Bret Engemann at a BYU spring football scrimmage in 1999.

Her ex-husband is Bret Engemann, a Timpview High grad who played off and on — occasionally starting — for the Cougars in 1999, 2001 and 2002.

“I mean, you know how it is when you’re the quarterback at that school,” Harrington said. “And then it’s the church’s school. It’s, like, next level.”

She and Engemann (whose sister, Shawn Southwick, was married for 22 years to CNN host Larry King) met in college, married and had two sons before their split, which was in the glare of a local celebrity spotlight.

“Some people were wonderful. But everyone talked about it,” Harrington said.

Are they still talking now that she’s a semi-regular on “The Real Housewives of Salt Lake City”? Probably, but — even though she’s often approached by the show’s fans when she’s traveling out of the state and even out of the country — “nobody here says anything,” Harrington said. “You know how it is down here. Maybe it’s just because I know everybody here.”

She does think that living in Utah County makes it a bit harder to be on “Real Housewives” than living in Salt Lake, Summit or Tooele counties, where the other Housewives and their friends reside. “I would say so, yes,” Harrington said. “There are wonderful people here, but I think it’s overall more judgmental here. Anytime you have an extremely high concentration of religious people, ... it’s going to be more judgmental, for sure.”

Going through her divorce from Engemann was “extremely challenging, but it gave me very, very, very thick skin,” she said. “But it still hurts to be misunderstood and misrepresented. It’s still hard.”

(Bravo) Chris Harrington, Angie Harrington, Meredith Marks and Seth Marks on "The Real Housewives of Salt Lake City."

Setting things straight

There were “a lot of things” Harrington “wanted to set straight” in the two-part Season Three reunion that concludes Wednesday on Bravo — 6 p.m. on Dish and DirecTV; 9 p.m. on Comcast. And at the top of the list is the accusation that she and her husband, Chris, bullied Jen Shah and Lisa Barlow. The Harringtons have admitted that Chris operated an Instagram page — @shahexposed — but Angie denies it was about bullying the two Housewives.

“If you read the definition of bullying, what happened and what was said from that account was not bullying. It was just getting another side of the story out,” she insisted. “I totally understand that doing it from a fake account is not the appropriate way to do it. But, unfortunately, that’s kind of what some of the cast members do. And that’s kind of how you have to get their attention. It just kind of backfired on us. And it was a mistake and a bad move.”

Harrington said that some Housewives or their allies were “going to the press and telling a one-sided story” that made her look bad. “You have to understand there was a long process of that happening before [Chris] finally spoke on my behalf.”

On the show, Jen said that bullying on the @shahexposed Instagram account prompted her to make an attempt to take her own life. Harrington did not dispute that Jen made the attempt, but said, “It’s important to me that people know that Chris didn’t bully anyone. Making a fake account is a stupid thing to do. Neither one of us denies that. But he was never bullying anybody. It was never a trolling thing where he’s calling them unattractive or stupid.

“Having said that, I totally understand” why people were upset about it. “That’s still dumb. It was still a mistake.” She said Chris “feels horrible about the situation. Honestly, he was just trying to rescue me. … When someone’s attacking someone he loves, he goes into protection mode.”

(Charles Sykes | Bravo) Angie Harrington, Meredith Marks, Heather Gay, Andy Cohen and Whitney Rose on the "Real Housewives of Salt Lake City" Season 3 reunion.

Feeling heard?

When Harrington spoke to The Tribune on Tuesday morning, she had not seen Part 2 of the Season Three reunion, but she was feeling “hopeful. … I feel like at the reunion, I finally had my voice heard.”

And she has no regrets about speaking up for herself.

“When you grow up in Utah,” she said, “the ideology is, like, turn the other cheek, don’t cause problems, don’t make waves. But I realized if I don’t have a voice, someone else is going to tell my story. And it’s going to be an inaccurate version.”

She is, however, most likely going to be disappointed by the reunion edit. She’s barely in Part 2 before she and the other two friends — Angie Katsanevas and Danna Bui-Negrete — are dismissed.

(Seth Wenig | AP) Jennifer Shah arrives to federal court in New York, Friday, Jan. 6, 2023. Federal prosecutors are seeking a 10-year prison sentence for the member of "The Real Housewives of Salt Lake City" who they say lived lavishly after defrauding thousands of people nationwide in a telemarketing scam, many of them elderly.

Jen vs. Angie H.

From the get-go in Season Three, Angie H. was in conflict with Jen. “As you saw, she came for me really, really hard,” Harrington said. “And then when I saw her plead guilty, I felt frustrated because I’d been told many times … that she was innocent.”

To no small degree, Angie H. looked better as the season advanced because Jen looked worse. When Jen pleaded guilty to defrauding senior citizens, it became hard not to call into question everything she said and her attacks upon Angie H.

“I give her some grace,” Harrington said. “She was dealing with a lot. And she took it out on me.”

Shortly before Jen was charged, Angie H. and Jen had been among the guests at a birthday party for one of Heather’s daughters “and she was totally fine. So I just think that as pressure built up with her case, I was an easy target in that moment.”

“I try to have a positive, forgiving heart. ... But was it frustrating to have her make mountains out of molehills knowing what she knew? Sure, absolutely.”

Was she auditioning for a regular role?

“RHOSLC” was down to five regulars this season after Mary Cosby and Jennie Nguyen were fired at the end of Season Two, but the show didn’t add any full-time cast members. Angie Harrington, Angie Katsanevas and Danna Bui-Negrete came aboard as “friends,” each appearing in some but not all of the Season Three episodes.

Did it Angie H. feel like she was auditioning to be a full-time Housewife?

“Yes and no,” she said. “Look, last season when I was cast, I think people had this idea that I was super thirsty” to be on the show. “But what they don’t realize is that I ended up leaving because of the situation with the caterers.”

(Bravo) Angie Harrington and Lisa Barlow on "The Real Housewives of Salt Lake City."

In Season Two, Angie H. appeared in several episodes, and she accused Lisa of sabotaging a fundraiser she was throwing by convincing the caterers to pull out. It was an accusation Lisa — backed up by the caterers — strongly denied. Despite Angie H.’s attempts to work things out, Lisa has not forgiven her, ending their longtime friendship. And at that time, “I thought I was done with the show.”

Ironically, it was Lisa who encouraged Angie H. to go after a spot in the cast in Season One “Lisa really tried to talk me into it at the time,” Angie H. said. “And I told her, ‘Look, I’m not in the space mentally because I have this newborn baby.’” But by the time Season Two came around, the baby was a bit older “and I felt more like I was in a space where I could deal with it,” she said.

And her new BFF, Heather, convinced her to “give it another shot.”

(Charles Sykes | Bravo) Angie Katsanevas and Danna-Bui Negrete on the "Real Housewives of Salt Lake City" Season 3 reunion.

Angie-vs.-Angie tension

For new viewers, the fact that two of the Season Three friends are both named Angie can be a bit confusing. It’s why the Housewives refer to them as Angie H. (Harrington) and Angie K. (Katsanevas).

“Well, there’s first-string Angie, and then second-string Angie,” Angie H. said with a laugh, adding that she was just “teasing … It’s a little challenging and confusing, but at the same time, it is what it is. I don’t have a massive ego. So it doesn’t bother me that much.”

Which is not to say that Angie H. is on good terms with Angie K.

“She wasn’t nice to me from the get-go,” Harrington said. “I’d never met her and she immediately came for me. So it was harder for me to want to like her, of course. But the name thing doesn’t bother me.”

Was it worth it?

Appearing in Season Two of the show “cost me my friendship with Lisa,” Angie H. said. “I always try to see the glass half full. So I look at it as one of those things where I go, ‘Look, I lost Lisa, which sucks. You never want an enemy. But I gained Heather.’”

She said she and Heather “just naturally clicked” and the two of them “clown around, we laugh, we goof off. … We laugh ‘til we cry. ... It is unfortunate what happened with Lisa. I wish her good things. But I gained Heather, and I really love that relationship.”

Angie H. also speculated that her burgeoning friendship with Heather didn’t sit well with Whitney, who had a major falling out with Heather in Season Two. “I honestly think that was part of what was hard for Whitney as well was how well Heather and I connected” she said.

She did say that being even a semi-regular on “RHOSLC” proved to be “extremely challenging. ... I’ve always told myself, ‘Look, just don’t act like a fool, and you’ll be fine.’ The problem is, you can’t control what your cast members will say about you.”

Like when Whitney said that Angie H. said Lisa was trading sexual favors for Utah Jazz tickets. “I never ever, ever said that. Never would,” Angie H. said. “And there’s going to be a certain percentage of people who believe what Whitney said, and that’s the really challenging part.”

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

(In Part 1 of the reunion, Whitney argued she never said Angie H. said that — that the story was the result of Heather misinterpreting what she’d said.)

On the other hand, Angie H. really likes getting dressed up for the show. “No outfit ever goes wasted when you’re a Housewife,” she said, chuckling. “I love fashion, so that part is so fun. … So it’s honestly this mix of sweet and sour that makes the perfect cocktail, right?”

Will she return if asked?

Bravo has yet to confirm there will be a fourth season of “RHOSLC,” and Angie H. has not yet been asked to return. Somewhat surprisingly, her husband — who has experienced all kinds of blowback because of his fake Instagram page — isn’t against that possibility.

“I mean, he knows he can’t tell me what to do,” Angie H. said, laughing. “He tells me, ‘Have a good day,’ and I’m, like, ‘Don’t tell me what to do!’ Honestly, I think he’s just, like, ‘Look, you do you. I trust you, I know you’re not going to embarrass me.”

The reality of being part of a reality show is that “it’s harder than anyone can imagine, but it’s also such a high,” Angie H. said. “So I think you just have to weigh out if it works for you and your family. And I don’t know. We’ll see what the future holds.”

She alluded to “some news in our family this year that has been extremely challenging. … My family is going to need a lot more of my time, I should say, without going too much into it.” Angie H. declined to specify, but said, “We’re on a new journey. I’ll just say that. We got a diagnosis in our family, and it’s going to take a lot of our time and commitment. And so I don’t know what the future holds.”

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