Vicki Gunvalson has stayed busy since her Real Housewives of Orange County exit, filming a new reality series and launching a podcast of her own
“I was ready to go,” the reality star, 57, tells PEOPLE. “I have to say, I had a little bit of FOMO, I have to say, of not filming right now. Those last few years doing the show, for me, were really toxic, and when anything becomes toxic in my age at life — be it your career, relationships, friendships — you have to cut it out.”
“Personally, I can’t be around that anymore,” Gunvalson says. “I can’t do the mean girls s—. I’m over it. And about halfway through last year, when my castmate was criticizing my appearance and calling me ugly, I really had a revelation. ‘What, am I going to cry every day because you think I’m less than? No, I’m not less than. We all do the very best we can with what God gave us. And I’m beautiful the way I am.’ I just had to get away from it and say, ‘You can’t hurt me anymore. No one can hurt me.’ “
Since announcing her departure in January, Gunvalson hasn’t slowed down.
She’s jumped back on the reality TV bandwagon, filming a new show with her former RHOC costar Tamra Judge. And on Thursday, she launched a new podcast with Westwood One, called Whoop It Up with Vicki.
“I’m not missing a beat,” Gunvalson says. “I’m in a good place. My future, as long as everything keeps going the way it is, is looking really bright. I’m super excited about what’s to come.”
Both of her new projects are about showing a more authentic side of herself to the world than was depicted during her final few seasons on RHOC, she says.
“The show really got off course from what we were supposed to be doing,” explains Gunvalson, who was an original Housewife when the series began in 2006 and stayed on the show for 14 seasons. “In the beginning, it was about showing your real lives; your family, your friendships, your work. It was about really opening up and letting the world in. But it stopped being that and it started being about fighting. And they never showed my real life anymore. It just became fake. Why do you want to go on an internationally famous show and be mean? What we’re supposed to be doing is really helping each other! It’s a tough world out there!”
“I want to show my real life,” Gunvalson adds. “My real life is incredible, exhausting and exciting. I’m helping people every day in my business [Coto Insurance]. I’m a loving mother and grandma. I have this great relationship with [fiancé Steve Lodge]. That’s the reality of my life, not that fake stuff.”
She went on to slam some of her former RHOC costars for fabricating parts of their lives for the camera, though didn’t name names.
“I don’t create a storylines, like so many of these women do,” Gunvalson says. “I read somewhere that someone said ‘My storyline was over.’ Hold on. Last time I checked, this is a reality show. There is no storylines. Some of the other girls create fake storylines. I never have, I never will. Maybe one day I’ll come back to the show, but only when the show wants to create real TV. In the meantime, we’ll see if any of these women last 14 years. I’m good with my tenure.”
Fans who tune into Whoop It Up with Vicki can expect Gunvalson to be just as candid and unfiltered on her podcast as she is here to PEOPLE. She plans on educating listeners about building a financial freedom, something she’s passionate about in her work life.
“The Real Housewives of Orange County never entered in to what I do for a living, which is financial planning, retirement planning and insurance,” Gunvalson says. “I do seminars all across the country speaking out about these topics. And every day, someone sends me a message asking me questions — so many, that I can’t answer them all. So I thought, ‘What a better way to reach more people than to launch a podcast?’ It’ll allow me to magnify that conversation in a really powerful way.”
Gunvalson’s show will also also see her giving updates on her family life, including wedding planning with Lodge. The couple have been together for four years and got engaged last April.
“Steve wants to get married, like, tomorrow,” Gunvalson says. “He’s like, ‘Let’s just go and do it.’ And I keep being like, ‘I’m a little busy this week!’ He’d be find going to the courthouse. But I’m like, ‘I’m not going to the courthouse and getting married! We have all the kids and grandkids and I want everyone there!’ So it’s a real yin and yang.”
As for Gunvalson’s new series with Judge, while she insists she has to stay mum about show and network details for now, she did tease that the program would leave viewers inspired.
“It’s going to be an incredible show,” Gunvalson says. “Tamra and I, we’re good together. We have great chemistry and we’re having fun. We’ve got a really special journey happening. It’s something that will really inspire people. I can’t say much more, but I know it’s going to be a show people love.”
“My love tank is very filled,” she continues. “And it’s not filled because I have a man, or filled because I have a podcast, or filled because I have a reality show, or filled because I have a loving family: it’s filled because I’m happy. I’m super, super blessed and happy. I’ve been able to create my happy. I’ve dictated what I want it to be. And when I look back at my life in the next 20 years, I’ll be proud of myself for doing just that.”
Whoop It Up with Vicki is available wherever podcasts are found.