Barbara Kavovit has been in the orbit of The Real Housewives of New York City long before she made her official debut as a “Friend” on the just wrapped Season 11. (She actually was almost cast during Season 4, when Cindy Barshop joined the show as the new Housewife). Knowing most of the case definitely did not make her first season any easier though, as she found herself at odds with Housewives Dorinda Medley and Ramona Singer at different times throughout the season. As the head of her own construction company, Barbara is no stranger to going head to head with strong personalities. As she releases her debut novel (and partial roman a clef’) Heels Of Steel, I grabbed some time to talk with Barbara K. From her feelings on her debut season of Housewives to how close she and her heroine Bridget Steel are, and she dispenses some fantastic words of wisdom for ladies coming up in business.
Michael Cook: Barbara, Heels Of Steel is finally out. What is it like to have been able to put this story on paper and have it be out for the world to dive into this summer?
Barbara Kavovit: This has been such a passion project for me. I started writing this book four years ago when I was sitting by my pool and I decided that after twenty years of building my construction company, it was time for me to tell my story in the form of a novel. The encouraging messages I’ve been getting on social media have been so rewarding, and I hope that people view Bridget as an empowering role model in their own lives.
MC: What makes Heels Of Steel the perfect summer read?
BK: This is a very quick read that has it all – a strong female main character, a look into the male-dominated world of construction, and a forbidden romance. It’s a feel-good, empowering story that is the perfect beach read!
MC: The inevitable question; how much of the story is borrowed from your own, and how much of Bridget Steele is in you and vice versa?
BK: Heels of Steel is really my story, the only difference is I haven’t built a skyscraper yet and I changed the names of the characters so I wouldn’t expose anyone. There was a real Jay and a real Scarlett. The harassment that occurred being a woman in a male-dominated industry was real. I feel like I wouldn’t have been able to authentically write about this world if I hadn’t lived it!
MC: So The Real Housewives of New York City has wrapped up with the reunions. What are your thoughts on the experience as a whole?
BK: It was a complete whirlwind of an experience! I knew most of these women prior to filming, but once the cameras were on, the claws really came out. Being a part of it to support Luann and learning how to co-exist with the other women was very intense.
MC: Looking back, what would the Barbara that wrapped up the season tell the Barbara starting her first scene?
BK: I really tried to maintain my composure being the new girl, but there were some moments where I definitely might have dug in a little more with the women. It was really a huge learning curve and I had no idea what to expect going into this. Live and learn!
MC: You seem very zen about either returning to the show or not returning and leaving it up to the Bravo gods; how do you stay so centered when reality television can truly intoxicate people?
BK: At the end of the day, I’m a confident woman and an entrepreneur who is the CEO of a very successful construction company. My latest book is keeping me very busy as well as other business endeavors. While Housewives was definitely an exciting experience, I’m focused on where I can succeed and what’s next for my book. If that means to be on Housewives again, then I will. If not, I’ll look back and say I was fortunate to have that experience. In other words, trust the process!
MC: So if you go back to the show, what do you want to be different? And if you don’t, what is next for Barbara K?
BK: I don’t have regrets from this past season. If I were to go back to the show, things would be similar. I’d still wear my wrap dresses and crop tops and have a fierce spray tan (making sure to spray in the shower)! I would love to show more of my business on the show – we work on some amazing projects and I would love to show how much hard work happens on an Evergreen job site!
Right now I’m working on turning my book into a movie (shout out to J-Lo for being my top pick to play Bridget)! I am also working on the sequel for Heels of Steel and I’m excited to explore what’s next for Bridget!
MC: The #MeToo movement truly has shown a moment of reckoning for men and how they treat women.Your recent New York Times profile showed that you have no patience for men who don’t treat you as an equal on job sites. Have you started to see the narrative shift in terms of women in the workplace? What advice do you have for women just starting out in business?
BK: The narrative is definitely shifting, but we still have a long way to go before women are truly embraced and treated as an equal. Working ten times harder than my male counterparts, just to be considered equal is something I’ve been tackling for more than 20 years and I still find myself fighting for every job.
For women who are looking to get into a male-dominated field, my advice would be to never take “no” for an answer and have a thick skin because it’s not going to be easy. Hopefully as more women enter industries like finance, construction, and technology the climate will start to change.
MC: What gives you pride?
BK: My ultimate goal is to pave the way and inspire women in construction. By writing Heels of Steel I hope to give young women a strong, female role model to admire and I want to let them know that you do not have to begin a career with resources to accomplish your goals.
By sharing my story, women are reaching out, asking for my advice and thanking me for writing such an authentic story. I’m proud to learn that something that I’m so passionate about and something that means so much to me is receiving this kind of response.
(Art Courtesy of Barbara Kavovit; Housewives Art Courtesy of NBC/Universal)