Gina Liano was made for TV. Anybody who has seen The Real Housewives of Melbourne knows that. The self-described "ultimate drag queen" is a barrister in Australia—lawyer to us yanks—who doesn't mince words. But last season of The Real Housewives of Melbourne, the crossover hit reality series that has its second season premiering tonight on Bravo, was Gina's first go at entertainment.
"I've never had an audience of such. I was nervous, I suppose. I didn't know how I'd be perceived by an audience," Gina told E! News in a phone interview from Australia. But audiences have embraced her.
During the first season, Gina sparred with pretty much every other cast member including Andrea Moss, Jackie Gillies, Janet Roach and Lydia Schiavello. The only lady she remained neutral with was Chyka Keebaugh. Everybody but Andrea is back this year, and along for the ride are two newbies, Gamble Breaux and Pettifleur Berenger.
Known for her quick wit, bedazzled dresses, big hair and even bigger personality, Gina almost said goodbye to the Housewives after the first season because she "didn't have a lot of fun the first time around."
"I just thought there's no point going back into something like that because a lot of the viewers—in Australia anyway—were saying it's mean and it's not fun anymore," Gina told us. "I thought if I go back in to a second season with the same dynamic, not only do I have to endure that potentially, but I don't think it's very entertaining."
But Andrea left the show and two new ladies joined to change up the dynamic, helping convince Gina to return to the fold. Before Andrea left, she and Gina went it at it one more time during the reunion show. It was there Gina deemed Andrea an "insignificant ass hair." Gina said the line just came to her in the moment.
"I was thinking it, and I was saying to myself, ‘Don't say it, don't say it, don't say it,' because she was accusing me of calling her the external female genitalia, that's how she puts it. I thought, ‘Honey, if your genitalia is external, you need to go and see a doctor,'" she said with a laugh. "And I thought to myself, ‘Well, if I had to refer to a body part, it would be a hair on someone's backside,' so that's sort of where that idea came from. I thought, ‘Don't say it!' and then I just thought, ‘Enough, that's exactly what I think, so I'm going to say it.' It has been quoted a lot. [Laughs.]"
Credit Gina's profession and sense of humor for lines like that.
"I think [my lawyer experience is] probably an asset because I'm quick on my feet…running trials, cross-examining—not that I come to a social situations cross-examining. I suppose there's a lot of hostility in a trial; you're fighting a case for someone," she told us. "Everything you say, the hairs are getting split up, that's probably the best way to describe it. I've been trained to be quick on my feet and I think that's what comes across to the audience. I have quick response and I remain composed, which is what would happen in a trial, and I have entertaining comebacks…Only so much is training, it's my personality. I've always found the comedy in everything, even when I was growing up. I've got two older sisters and a younger brother and we spent our whole childhood laughing. So, yeah, I find the humor in most things."
With a season already under her belt, there were two things that surprised Gina: the fan response, which she said has been overwhelming, and "that I sound like a man when I speak. [Laughs.]"
"My voice gave me a surprise because I've never been on TV before. I think we were all really shocked at what we sounded like and a couple of things, like hair and makeup not looking so good, so really aesthetic stuff that really was surprising," she said. "You see yourself all day or even for an hour, moving naturally or speaking—everybody else gets used to it so it probably doesn't look so surprising to other people who know me, but to myself I was taken aback. It took me a while to get used to looking at myself."
A fan of basically every American Real Housewives series—she said Lisa Vanderpump and the Beverly Hills ladies are her favorites—Gina said the main difference between The Real Housewives of Melbourne and the US shows is the sense of humor.
"The difference, really, is that we have a very different sense of humor to any nationality. We have a very dry sense of humor and I think we are quite down to earth. I'm not suggesting that Americans aren't, but just looking at the Aussie culture and Australian women, we tend to be pretty down to earth anyway," she said. "We have a tall poppy syndrome here and the best way to get along in Australia is if you're not a tall poppy and if you are that you can put yourself down and be levelheaded about who you are. No one likes anyone particularly who really fancies themselves or thinks that they're special. They get knocked very quickly. So I think that's part of our culture, even if we are doing something fabulous that we keep our level heads and we keep prospective."
As for what season two holds, there will be more drama between Gina and Jackie, the "love/hate" relationship between Gina and Janet continues and a "devastating" situation for one of the ladies. "[S]he's quite hurt and distressed about some things that are being said. That creates some division between the group of girls. You'll see who's on whose team and who's batting for whom," Gina said. "Can I say that season two is much punchier? Not as in fisticuff punchy, but the pace sort of moves. I think it's visually spectacular, the producers have done a great job."
The Real Housewives of Melbourne season two premieres Thursday, March 5 at 9 p.m. on Bravo.
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