Heather Dubrow Shares Her Best Parenting Advice as a Mom of 3 LGBTQ+ Kids

Heather Dubrow’s summer calendar is stacked. Along with celebrating the return of The Real Housewives of Orange County—Season 18 will premiere on Bravo with a supersized episode on Thursday, July 11 at 9 p.m. ET—the television personality is juggling a new wine collab and an upcoming fashion line (a range of elevated basics with New York designer Susan Bender, which Dubrow recently teased on her Instagram).

But in June, her primary focus is on her continued advocacy work for the queer community. Naturally ramped up during Pride Month, that activism is especially personal to Dubrow and her family, including plastic-surgeon hubby Terry Dubrow (who TV fans know from a decade of Botched). Three of the Dubrow's four children, Max (20), Nick (20), Kat (17) and Ace (13), identify as LGBTQ+, which makes that work close to home. To toast to the queer community, Dubrow recently partnered with Equality Vines to create a sparkling wine line with proceeds benefiting the non-profit Family Equality, which advocates to advance equality for the LGBTQ+ community.

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You’ll get to see that brand-new bubbly on the upcoming season of RHOC, where Heather is joined by castmates Shannon Storms Beador, Tamra Judge, Gina Kirschenheiter, Emily Simpson and Jennifer Pedranti as well as newbie Katie Ginella. Oh, and former RHOC star Alexis Bellino returns to the franchise as a friend amid her controversial new relationship with Beador’s ex-boyfriend, John Janssen. Talk about drama!

And Heather was game to speak about it all, chatting with Parade in a one-on-one interview about everything from what Bravo fans can expect from Season 18 to how she gives her kids privacy while living a life in the spotlight.

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Christina Izzo: How did your partnership with Equality Vines and Family Equality come about? Why was it important for you to work with them?

Heather Dubrow: I’ve been working with Family Equality for over a decade, well before I even knew I had kids in the queer community. And they’re just an incredible organization. About a year ago, I was the honorary co-chair at their gala and afterwards they approached me about doing this sparkling wine collab. I was like, ‘Listen, if 100-percent of the proceeds go to Family Equality, I am in.’ So we created a ‘GEMS’ line, four different sparkling wines loosely based on my four kids—they are my precious gems.

As you mentioned, you’re the proud mom of four children, three of whom identify as LGBTQ+. How did you respond to them coming out to you? Did those revelations alter your parenting at all?

My short answer is no, as it shouldn’t! For me, there was no big cymbal crash or cannon going off or anything like that [when they came out]. Having grown up in a very 1950s kind of household myself, we didn’t really talk about anything, everything was kind of just pushed under the rug. It was important to me when Terry and I got married and started a family to really be open with our kids and to create an environment where they just felt comfortable talking about anything. So with our kids, it was just an ongoing conversation of life: ‘Who do you like?’ ‘Who are you friends with in school?’ ‘Who do you have a crush on?’ No one ever had to come out to us. Was it defined at certain times? Yes, but they’re also kids. They’re young and fluid, this generation, in the best way. My biggest challenge as a parent and someone with a platform is trying to help other families while also giving my kids the space they need to figure it out.

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Yes, being a Housewife is a very public job. So how do you balance all of that with giving your kids room to navigate their own identities?

You have to protect your family, but also I hope that showing our family on television and not telling our children’s stories for them but just being in the public eye and showing what our normal family looks like is helpful to other people. And we’ve been able to make an impact. But it’s not my job to fix everyone’s thinking and if there’s someone in my life who knows us and loves us and would speak negatively about my children, that’s a nonstarter for me.

What advice would you give to parents or loved ones of a young person who is coming out?

First of all, listen! It sounds so dumb, but it’s true. We’re parents, we like to talk. ‘Let me fix it for you.' ‘Let me tell you this great story about how I was when I was 20.’ Like shut up, just let them talk! They just want to be heard. And then I think the other thing [for the child] is to take your time. If you need a label for yourself, that’s okay. If you want to change your label, that’s okay, too. If you want to try on pronouns and they don’t feel right for you in a few years, that’s okay. Nothing is irreversible.

Speaking of filming, Season 18 of RHOC is premiering in just a few weeks on July 11. What can you tease Bravo fans about the upcoming season?

It’s a crazy season. First of all, our cast is pretty big. Including Alexis, there were eight women on the show this year. When I first started the show, we typically had five [and we still had a lot going on] because we’re insane! But it is interesting to have so many different people on the show and the dynamics. So much happened this year for everyone. The Shannon and Alexis situation! We have a group dynamic and we do group things together and have issues with each other but you also get to see what’s going on in our personal lives. And for me, I really got to show a lot of the advocacy work I do for Family Equality, GLAAD, the LGBT Center and HRC. It’s exciting.

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How was it welcoming Katie Ginella into the OC group as well as having Alexis Bellino rejoin the show?

Well Alexis, I’ve been trying to get her back for years. Alexis and I historically, when she first came on the show, we weren’t great friends. But our kids ended up joining a theater group together, this is like six or seven years ago. Through our kids and common experiences, we’ve gotten much closer so I’ve been advocating for her to come back on the show for years, not knowing she was going to end up dating John Janssen. I mean, that was pretty crazy. And when Katie joined, I was excited to have someone new on the show—and you’ll have to wait and see how that went!

Are there any other former Orange County castmates that you’d like to return à la Alexis in future seasons of the show?

It’s funny, Jo De La Rosa made an appearance this season, and I don’t really know her. I didn’t watch the show before I joined and I didn’t watch the show during the seasons that I was off so I only know the people that I have been on with. I think Jo and I had met before but I actually got to hang out with her this time and she’s such a cool girl, I really liked her.

And RHOC isn’t the only Bravo show you’re appearing on this summer—you’ll also be in this season of Million Dollar Listing: Los Angeles with your husband and, funnily enough, your son?

Yes, Nicky got his real estate license and so he was working with Josh Altman. It was so funny, Josh was telling me that Nicky was in the office working while they were filming Million Dollar Listing. One of the PAs didn’t know who Nicky was and went up to him as you would if someone were new to filming, because he was literally just working in the office for the summer. And they’re like, ‘Hey, cameras are gonna be here today.’ They were giving him some rules about filming, ‘don’t look in the camera.’ Nicky, such a sweet kid, was like, ‘Oh yeah, okay, no problem,’ and I think it was Matt Altman who went up to the PA like, ‘Are you an idiot? He’s been on television since he was three!’

Finally, Parade recently did a ranking of the best fights on The Real Housewives of Orange County. What do you think should take the top spot?

The first one that comes to my mind is the only scene of the show I had ever seen before joining the cast, which is when Tamra threw wine on Jeana Keough. That was a big one. I would also say Heather versus Shannon: ‘We’re done, please leave.’ I mean, Tamra and Vicki [Gunvalson]! My first season when they broke the bow off the cake, a lot happened at that party. Brooks [Ayers] was there, and there was Vicki screaming at Tamra, ‘You’re supposed to be my sister, my friend, my soulmate!’ That was a big party.

This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity. The Real Housewives of Orange County season 18 premieres Thursday, July 11 at 9 p.m. ET on Bravo. 

Next, 'Real Housewives of Orange County' Season 18 Gets a Release Date and Trailer