“Someone needed to bring the drama”: Real Housewives of Toronto star Kara Alloway on her new book about reality TV

“Someone needed to bring the drama”: Real Housewives of Toronto star Kara Alloway on her new book about reality TV

The series villain dishes on the behind-the-scenes secrets of RHOT, who she’d cast in a second season, and why she, Kathy Hilton and Donald Trump all have sons named Baron

Kara Alloway was the villain that viewers loved to loathe in in The Real Housewives of Toronto. Now, she back in the spotlight with her debut novel, a roman a clef about a group of women on a Housewives-esque reality series—aptly titled, Most Hated.
Photo courtesy of Kara Alloway

Six years ago, magazine editor Kara Alloway signed on to star in The Real Housewives of Toronto, a locally produced iteration of the Bravo reality series famous for high fashion and higher drama. I understood the assignment,” says Alloway of her onscreen persona, who famously lost it when the other ladies got drunk at her dinner party (or at least that’s what it looked like on TV). Now, the villain viewers loved to loathe is back in the spotlight with her debut novel, a roman à clef about a group of women on a Housewives-esque reality series, aptly titled Most Hated. Here, she dishes on the behind-the-scenes secrets of reality stardom and whom she would cast in a follow-up season.

It’s been six years since you appeared as one of the Real Housewives of Toronto. Things ended on a frosty note. Has time softened your feelings, or are you still furious at Joan for leaving her underwear on your dock after the gang got drunk at your dinner party?
Good grief! There were so many hills I felt compelled to die on that I certainly don’t care about now. With the incident you’re referring to, I hosted a dinner party at my cottage and my husband and kids were there, so I felt like people could have drank a bit less. But it was more that, with my family present, it didn’t feel appropriate for the women to take their clothes off and skinny dip. The final edit made it look like I was a total killjoy—in general, the narrative created for my character made me look a lot worse than I was.

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So you never set out to be the series villain?
No. I wanted to produce my own show about the Toronto charity gala circuit. I was told that signing on to Real Housewives would drum up interest. But, in order for the show to be great, someone needed to bring the drama and keep viewers from changing the channel. So I got out my spoon and stirred the pot. I was playing a character—especially with lines like “I’m a Christian, and God wants me to be fabulous.” Some of it was hard to watch back, but I understood the assignment. Nobody watches reality TV to see people get along.

They watch it to see people throw cocktails in one anothers faces.
Ha! We never did that on the Toronto series, but I think that sort of thing has an aspirational quality. Like, most of us aren’t going to throw a drink in someone’s face, but isn’t it fun to watch someone else do it?

So, to be clear, you’re no longer in touch with the rest of the cast?
No. But it’s more that our lives didn’t intersect before the show, so they don’t intersect now.

The biggest criticism of RHTO was that the women were not high profile enough. Do you agree?
Definitely. I think a lot of people didn’t want to do it once they read the contract. The producers needed access to your home, your family. And other cast members were allowed to lie about you—there was no obligation for the show to set the record straight.

I heard a rumour that one of the women in the Rogers family threatened to blacklist anyone who signed on.
I heard that too, but I don’t know if it’s true. I have the utmost respect for Melinda Rogers-Hixon and Martha Rogers. I can’t imagine why they would do that. I think that, along with name recognition, what you need are characters people want to know more about. I’m not sure if viewers were very curious about the women on my season.

Ouch. Who should they have cast?
Oh, gosh. Today, someone like Candice Sinclair, who’s the new it girl on the gala-planning circuit. Or Sarah Paterson, who runs her own private jet company and is married to Scott Paterson, a big tech investor. I remember suggesting Jessica Mulroney back when the show was casting. She was already dressing Sophie Trudeau and Meghan Markle, and I think filming coincided with Meghan and Prince Harry going public. There were some big names who auditioned, but they didn’t have the onscreen presence. I won’t say who.

Kara Alloway was the villain that viewers loved to loathe in in The Real Housewives of Toronto. Now, she back in the spotlight with her debut novel, a roman a clef about a group of women on a Housewives-esque reality series—aptly titled, Most Hated.
Photo by George Pimentel

Oh, come on, Kara—youre already “most hated.”
Ha! You know, my son came up with that title. He was just like, “Mom, you might as well lean in to it.”

Have you been able to do that? People on social media were awful to you when the series aired.
There were some extremely dark days. My husband would sit with me at 3 a.m. while I bawled my eyes out. People said they hoped that he would leave me or that my children would die. I even got banned from volunteering at my son’s school because of the show. I was lucky to get my hands on a book called Womans Inhumanity to Woman by a psychotherapist named Phyllis Chesler. It’s about the problematic nature of female socialization. I really related to it. Rather than dealing with conflict, women tend to let things fester into resentment. The sisterhood has got to get it together.

But then who will star on our reality TV series?
The best versions of these shows avoid anything too brutal and instead capture women who are confident and not afraid to say what they think. That’s why the Real Housewives casts work better with slightly older cast members—like on the Orange County or Beverly Hills versions. They’re willing to be outrageous, so it’s not about some hack production team that has to rely on cherry-picking and frankenbiting.

For those who don’t speak reality TV, can you translate?
Frankenbiting is when a person says two different things that get spliced together into one comment in the edit. Cherry-picking is when they take a response to one question and make it seem like the answer to a different question.

When you appeared on the show, did you already have plans to write a novel about reality TV?
I always wanted to write a book about female friendships. I originally thought that it would be set in a sorority or at an all-girls school, but after being on the show, I realized that it was the perfect backdrop.

Characters in your novel include a disgraced pop star, a football WAG and an heiress whose aristocrat husband is accused of sexual misconduct. Are any of them based on you?
Several characters have elements of me. Dahlia, the athlete’s wife, is probably the closest—she has strong opinions and a tendency to stick her foot in her mouth. And then Zoe, the producer, is willing to do anything to make the show a success. I relate to that.

It seems like a common thread between the women in this book is the desire for redemption. Is that something you crave?
I think it’s redemption and also reinvention. They all transition from being at the mercy of other people’s actions to writing their own stories. My time on the show helped me realize that being a “people pleaser” was about needing to be liked. I don’t do that anymore.

The book is set in New York. Why not Toronto?
I wanted to make sure that the world these characters existed in had energy. I love Toronto—it’s the city my family calls home—but it can be sleepy at times.

You got a book blurb from Real Housewife and society grandame Kathy Hilton, mother of Paris Hilton. Are you friends?
Yes, for 30 years. We met when I was the hostess at Bistro Garden in Beverly Hills, which was the spot for the ladies who lunched—Kathy Hilton, Nancy Reagan, Kathy Lee Gifford, and so on. One American Thanksgiving, I was the Canadian with nowhere to go, and Kathy invited me to join her family. We’ve been close ever since. Now our sons, who are both named Baron, are working on a real estate project together.

Your sons are both named Baron?
Yes. My son is named after Kathy’s son. Baron Hilton is “Baron” and my son is “B2.”

Doesnt Donald Trump also have a son named Baron?
Yes, but he’s a lot younger. Let me tell you, nobody is naming their kid after Donald’s kid.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.