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    Real Housewives of Orange County: Alexis Bellino and Katie Ginella join the cast
    • July 5, 2024

    Alexis Bellino had a lot going on at the end of summer last year.

    Her beloved mother died, she broke off an engagement, and then “The Real Housewives of Orange County” was on the phone, asking the former housewife if she’d like to rejoin the reality series for its 18th season.

    And all that before she met and fell in love with John Janssen, the ex-boyfriend of housewife Shannon Storms Beador, which threw a huge plot twist into the season that premieres on Bravo on Thursday, July 11.

    “I mean, you can’t write this stuff, right?” Bellino says. “This is why it’s reality TV; it’s too good to be its own movie. It just is what it is, and, yeah, there’s a lot.”

    “The Real Housewives of Orange County returns for its 18th season on Thursday, July 11, 2024. Seen here, left to right, are Katie Ginella, Gina Kirschenheiter, Heather Dubrow, Shannon Storms Beador, Tamra Judge, Emily Simpson, and Alexis Bellini. (Photo Sami Drasin/Bravo)

    Alexis Bellino, who starred on “The Real Housewives of Orange County” from 2009 to 2013, returns as a friend of the Housewives when the series returns to Bravo for its 18th season on July 11,2024.(Photo by Sami Drasin/Bravo)

    Katie Ginella becomes the first Asian American to star on “The Real Housewives of Orange County” when she debuts as a new housewife on Bravo on the season premiere on July 11,2024.(Photo by Sami Drasin/Bravo)

    Jennifer Pedranti returns for the 18th season of “The Real Housewives of Orange County” on Bravo on the season premiere on July 11,2024.(Photo by Sami Drasin/Bravo)

    Tamra Judge returns for the 18th season of “The Real Housewives of Orange County” on Bravo on the season premiere on July 11,2024.(Photo by Sami Drasin/Bravo)

    Shannon Storms Beador returns for the 18th season of “The Real Housewives of Orange County” on Bravo on the season premiere on July 11,2024.(Photo by Sami Drasin/Bravo)

    Gina Kirschenheiter returns for the 18th season of “The Real Housewives of Orange County” on Bravo on the season premiere on July 11,2024.(Photo by Sami Drasin/Bravo)

    Heather Dubrow returns for the 18th season of “The Real Housewives of Orange County” on Bravo on the season premiere on July 11,2024.(Photo by Sami Drasin/Bravo)

    Emily Simpson returns for the 18th season of “The Real Housewives of Orange County” on Bravo on the season premiere on July 11,2024.(Photo by Sami Drasin/Bravo)

    Alexis Bellino, left, and Katie Ginella, right, are two new faces for the 18th season of “The Real Housewives of Orange County” on Bravo which premieres on July 11,2024. Bellino was originally on the show for four seasons from 2009 to 2013. For Ginella it’s her first time. (Photo by Sami Drasin/Bravo)

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    Around the same time, Katie Ginella and her family moved to Orange County, which brought her into the orbit of Bravo’s casting directors.

    “I became friends with Sutton,” Ginella says of Sutton Stracke of “The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills.” “I told her, I think we’re moving to Orange County and she said, ‘Oh, one of my friends is a real estate agent. You should reach out. You’re both around the same age; you have the same kind of personality; you’d be friends.’”

    The friend was Gina Kirschenheiter of “The Real Housewives of Orange County,” who not only met with Ginella about her housing needs but also encouraged her to join the reality show for its new season.

    Ginella is not only the new castmember; she is also the first Asian American in the cast of “The Real Housewives of Orange County,” and the first housewife of Korean descent on any cast in the greater Housewife universe.

    The rest of the cast remains as it was with Shannon, Gina, Heather Dubrow, Tamra Judge, Emily Simpson, and Jen Pedranti all returning for the new season. (Bellino, who was previously on the show between 2009 and 2013, is officially credited as “a friend” of the Housewives, but she’s certain to be a big presence in the storylines this year.)

    In separate interviews edited for length and clarity, Bellino and Ginella talked about their decisions to be on the series, the drama they encountered on the show, and more.

    Alexis Bellino

    Q: So when and how were you approached to rejoin the show?

    A: When I left 10 years ago, Heather and I were not close, but over the last 10 years we have formed a very true, authentic relationship. She’s been very vocal in the Bravo world about wanting me to be back on. With my mom passing in August, it was not anything in my forethought at all. But then at Bravo Con, Tamra and I had a really deep conversation. A true friendship started forming. And it was a just a road that led us here from that point on.

    Q: Was there any hesitation before you said yes?

    A: I did doubt going back for several reasons. No. 1, I didn’t know if I was mentally and physically capable to do it because I was so distraught. I was in a lot of therapy. Then No. 2, I happened to meet John [she laughs] at, let’s just say, an inconvenient time. It ended up being a deep love, so it was not a mistake, and I’m not regretful of any of that.

    But it did change the trajectory of what was going to happen. I was going to be on ‘Housewives’ as a single woman and now I’m on ‘Housewives’ in a serious relationship with an ex-boyfriend of one of the cast members.

    Q: You met John at The Quiet Woman in Corona del Mar, which is often a place we’ve seen Shannon.

    A: The honest-to-God truth is I’ve been going to the Quiet Woman for decades. My guy friends who are married – I officiated their wedding, actually – wanted me to take them there. So we went, and we’d paid the bill and just had our dessert. And John walks in with a group of people. I didn’t pay him any attention at that point.

    We all just hung out, and I’m still thinking I’m going home at this point. I’m not drinking. I’m just ready to go. And they all just were like, ‘No, we’re going to Shamrock; we’re going dancing,’ and this and that. Somehow they talked me into it even in my 5-inch stilettos and so we went and danced.

    You could tell there was an energy between John and I, but we definitely stayed friends. And then we just couldn’t fight it anymore. It was just natural. And we are deeply in love. The relationship we are in is so much harder than if I just met somebody else at the grocery store, you know what I mean? We chose a very difficult path.

    That’s why we waited to make sure, ‘OK, are these feelings more than just like you’re hot and you’re hot? It’s like, what is really here. So that’s where we are now.

    Q: This is clearly going to be a big storyline this year. Have you prepared yourself for that?

    A: After I spoke with my psychic, I decided to have the fire come inside of me to go back. I was going to say no at that point. It was almost too much to take on, right? I didn’t want to come in as the villain of the girlfriend that took the boyfriend when it’s not true, because they were broken up for a year and half.

    I know that makes interesting and good TV, but at the end of the day, people’s feelings are involved in this. I am in love with him. It is uncomfortable for Shannon and I to be on the same cast. So I almost didn’t come back. Then I talked to my mom through my psychic and that’s how I’m here.

    Related links

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    Real Housewives of Orange County reunion special: Topless Tamra’s pixelated parts
    Real Housewives of Orange County season finale: Evil clowns and home colonics
    ‘Real Housewives of Orange County’: Shannon dances on a bar in Mexico as the Tres Amigas party on
    Real Housewives of Orange County: Sesame Street-Sasquatch baby drama

    Katie Ginella

    Q: So tell me about how you came from Georgia to become a real housewife in Orange County.

    A: I actually met the casting about three years ago. A friend of mine was on ‘Basketball Wives’ and they reached out. We had moved to San Diego and I was like “I don’t live in Orange County so this is definitely not going to work.’ Then about a year later I met Sutton. We’re both from Georgia and we became very fast friends.

    We were kind of commiserating on the lack of sweet tea and fried food here in Southern California. It’s very healthy here. [She laughs] You know, we grew up like eating everything fried and full of butter. And so we became good friends.

    Q: Do you know how far it is to the closest Waffle House?

    A: Oh my gosh, I do actually know how far it is. It’s in Arizona and it makes me so sad. I miss that gross, greasy food so much.

    Q: And she introduced you to Gina?

    A: I reached out to Gina and we met for coffee to discuss my needs for a house because I have four kids and two dogs and my husband needs an office. And we sat there for five hours and talked. We were instantly friends. There’s never a lack of conversation with Gina, which is great.

    Q: You and your husband both come from a background in golf journalism, and now you’ve got a business involving alcohol and golf?

    A: Golf balls come in a sleeve, right? So we have made a golf ball that is 50 milliliters and the top of it twists off and inside are flavored shots of tequila and vodka. They come in a sleeve of four because usually golf is played in a foursome. And they’re called Tee Shots.

    Q: Was that part of the appeal of the show? To have a chance to talk about your business?

    A: I was able to talk about my business. My husband owns his own production company in golf. So it was kind of a really cool platform for that. I also thought it was really great that I could get on the show as the first Korean/Asian American for Orange County. There’s a huge Asian population in Orange County, Southern California and California in general. I think it’s really cool to see representation of Asian Americans on television.

    Q: What can your representation as an Asian American change or do on the show?

    A: I am adopted from Korea, so growing up, seeing a female Asian anywhere, whether it was sports or on TV, was awesome for me to see. It made me feel like, ‘Oh, that’s somebody I can relate to even though I had no idea who the person was.

    I think it comes with a lot of responsibility but responsibility I am really excited about. It does come with some stereotypes, and I think it’s good that I can help kind of break down some of those

    Q: Like what?

    A: We were filming and I told the girls, ‘Oh, I have to take Pepcid, so I don’t get Asian flush when we’re drinking.’ They were like what is that? They had no idea. I also got to introduce them to some Asian food, Asian culture, even being adopted from Korea and kind of learning it myself. It’s cool to introduce these ladies to something that they’re totally unaware about. I really, really enjoyed that.

    Q: What was your family’s reaction to you going on ‘Real Housewives’?

    A: My husband said now it’s your turn to do what you want to do and be who you want to be. It was hard at times. They would see me come home upset or stressed out, but they were all super supportive. It was nice.

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