Real Housewives of Vancouver Mary Zilba says: "Spank the right people"
"I'm kind of afraid to date. If you find someone for me, I'll make you the maid of honour," she tells a reporter.
The former Miss Ohio jokes about currently not dating anyone, adding that she's "looking for prospects."
On the 12th floor of the luxurious Loden Hotel on Melville Street, the scene is surreal. Zilba texts on her handheld, while co-stars walk in and out of the room. The show's publicist hovers nearby.
"Dale McKay is kind of cute. He's Canada's 'Top Chef'. He just texted me," Zilba, a self-confessed "tweetaholic" offers, adding that she probably tweets more than any of the other Real Housewives of Vancouver.
Zilba is also a proud mother. She gushes about one of her sons who drove her to the Loden that morning. Her proud moment is interrupted as her friend and co-star Christina Kiesel walks into the room. "Does anyone have a brush by any chance?" No one does.
Zilba, whose distress over her divorce is scrutinized repeatedly during outings and social gatherings by the Real Housewives in the the first two episodes, says the show has healed her heart.
"It got me over the heartbreak."
She's even gotten to be friends again with her ex.
Zilba had a serious relationship after her marriage, she says, but it didn't work out. It's unclear who broke her heart, her boyfriend or her ex-husband, but whoever it was, she's healing well, thanks to the show.
"I was in a relationship after my marriage for almost five years," she said. "He broke up with me. It took me a while to get over that heartbreak, so when we started filming, I was still getting over that."
And the relationship that came after her husband wasn't exactly golden either.
"When I was in my previous relationship, he didn't let me have any relationship at all with my ex-husband," Zilba divulged. "So, it's a renewal."
"It probably alludes to why I was asked the questions I was asked and being picked on," Zilba referred to the opening chapters of the episodes.
No more of that heartache, though.
"We have a really good relationship," Zilba said, speaking of her ex. The two recently vacationed with their boys for the first time in a while. "The boys were so happy. They loved it."
Spank the right people
She says she heard someone say that the show was the worst thing to happen to Vancouver.
"I started to read a lot of negative commentary. It really hurt."
Zilba is a former pop singer, with eight albums under her belt -- she's used to being judged on her music and her interviews. But she has never been judged as harshly as she has for the Real Housewives of Vancouver, she says.
"Here, they're judging you and they have no idea who you are. They are judging you because of the stigma of the show, and that's bothersome to me. Didn't your parents teach you not to judge a book by its cover?"
For the record, Zilba says, that the real worst thing to happen to Vancouver is not her show, but the Vancouver Canucks' Stanley Cup final loss and the looting and riots that happened after.
"That's worse. They just destroyed (Vancouver). I would spend more time spanking those people than us. This is just a nouveau soap opera."
Being a mom: the greatest accomplishment
Whiie talking about her teenage sons, aged 14, 16 and 17, Zilba gets teary-eyed.
"I'm so lucky that I'm a single mom, and they live with me full time. They're so nice. My kids don't even want to go out at night. They come home with friends, we sometimes have 10 guys in the apartment. They love it."
The groceries are endless. "I go to Costco twice every week. Costco people say, 'Hi, hi.' It's like, 'Hi, how are you? I'm back again.'"
"I'm really blessed. I'm not the wealthiest of the housewives, by far, but I'm pretty wealthy in things you can't see."
Zilba comes from a "big Catholic family" in Ohio. She has a couple of "really good girlfriends" in Vancouver who are not seen on the show.
She has been involved with many charities, including NOH8 (an anti-homophobia campaign), PETA, and Angkor Children's Hospital. She sits on the national board for Tuberous Sclerosis Canada (TSC)-- a complex disease that can cause tumors to form in all organs of the body, including the brain, heart, kidneys, lungs, and eyes. Zilba is very active in TSC, and prides herself on her philanthropic work.
Her 16-year-old son has inspired her charitable work. "It's very time-consuming," she said, "and very rewarding."
Her son plays guitar and is enrolled in regular classes. "He has really overcome the odds," she says.
She also has a new perfume line coming out inspired by the scent she recalls from when her mother kissed her goodnight as a child. The perfume, she says, is one of the "entrepreneurial things" she started before the show.
How did it all start?
After talking to her agent in LA last year about getting back into the entertainment business (Zilba holds a degree in television broadcasting), the mother of three wasn't sure which road to take. She sang, did commercials, produced shows, acted in movies. Then an opportunity for a TV show "landed in [her] lap."
"I got a phone call on one of the rare days that I had actually ventured out, taking my kids, driving them here and there. I was in such a stupor for over a month or two, and I just got a phone call from Lark Productions that just said, 'You're on our short list for being on a reality show.' I didn't know there was a list, and you already made the short list? Wow."
Zilba wasn't sure she wanted the gig. "I was like, Reality show? Really? What is it? Tell me.'
After filling out a 30-page application, the producers revealed to her what the show was about. Her initial reaction was: "Yikes. Really?"
But then her 16-year-old son encouraged her to take on the show.
"(He said), 'What a great way to raise awareness for TSC and get the name out there."
That was the push Zilba needed.
Ex-husband on The Real Housewives of Vancouver
Zilba's ex-husband worried she would be 'falsely portrayed'.
"You worry about editing -- and you don't want to be portrayed as who you're not. That's a fear that I think we all have."
At first, he refused to watch.
"He was like, 'Do I have to?'" Zilba whines, imitating her former spouse. It was better for them to be prepared for whatever might be shown, she says she told him.
"Everything's on camera -- they really do want you to be as real as possible."
"Even though I'm not completely happy with everything that was on the first two episodes, I have to say it was true to who I am," she said.
She didn't go into the show with a "game plan", and felt like she was on Survivor.
She views herself as a Vancouver housewife most people can relate to.
"I can dress up and be glamorous, but I'd rather be in jeans than be in a dress. I can be sophisticated when I need to be but I like to be more boho once in a while or Granola-ish."
A good year to start over
"It's a really good year, and I'm happy to report that I'm not broken-hearted anymore. I started out broken hearted, and I'm not right now," Zilba says, her face glowing. Though, she said," it would be nice to find someone," she hasn't completely lost hope that it could just happen.
She doesn't like to "waste" people's time, so when she's not really interested in a man, she hangs out with her girlfriends.
"If (remarriage) happens, I'd be so happy because I'm a one-man kind of woman, a nurturer. I'd like to be with someone, but I know that I don't want anyone that's aggressive, mean, or controlling, or not nice to my children."
"I know what I don't want now. That's good, right?"