Victoria Zito’s packed a lot of life into her 26 years. The Texas-born fashion designer is a divorcee, expat (in France) and, now, a reality TV star, part of the ensemble of Bravo’s new series, Real Girlfriends in Paris.
“I said yes to doing [the show] because for me, you know, I have had a very peculiar journey,” Victoria tells ET over video call. “When I say peculiar, you know, I never knew that it was possible to ever work in fashion — I didn’t even know that was a thing — and I have worked really, really hard to get to where I am at and it’s been a really long journey along the way.”
“My family was like, ‘You can’t go to New York, it’s too dangerous,'” she recalls. “So, I studied at community college for three years in Dallas instead, just to go to my dream school at Parsons, and I got a scholarship to Paris and when I got that scholarship, I never even had a passport in my life. I had never been outside the country. I had never been exposed to these other cultures and, for me, I said yes to doing this because if I can just inspire one little girl sitting at home in Texas, or Louisiana, with a family telling her that her dreams aren’t, you know, you can’t accomplish them, to show that you can regardless of what everyone and your peers around you say.”
“If I just inspire one person, then I am happy,” the Chloe Colette designer adds.
Victoria is one of six American women living in Paris showcased on the series, which lives somewhere between the Real Housewives franchise and Bravo fare of the mid-aughts, like Gallery Girls and Princess: Long Island. Like those shows, Real Girlfriends documents the trials and tribulations within the friend group and the ladies’ love lives. Victoria moved to Paris with her then-husband to finish fashion school; they split up after she discovered he had been unfaithful.
“I think sometimes [my divorce] can be like stuffed under the rug because I am so young, but at the end of the day, divorce is still divorce,” she shares, “and that was probably, single-handedly, one of the hardest things that I had ever been through.”
“Coming from Texas, sometimes when someone gets a divorce it’s like, you know, all hush-hush, like, ‘Don’t tell anyone,’ you know?” she continues. “And for me I was like, ‘F that!’ I have nothing to be ashamed about, because I grew so much emotionally in my relationships. I learned what I want out of life and what I don’t want, and I also learned what is important to me.”
Victoria says her “new chapter” is all about living as “my most authentic self,” which includes embracing her sexuality.
Fred Jagueneau / Bravo
“I am bisexual,” she declares. “I am 100 percent bisexual. I don’t know if I am going to end up with a guy one day, end up with a girl one day. … I love people. I don’t really like– I fall in love with humans. I find different humans attractive, and, you know, if someone is hot and their personality is beautiful, I fall in love with that person.”
Viewers will see Victoria date both men and women over the course of the show, something she opted not to give her family a heads up about; she’s still not “come out” to many people back home.
“I am choosing not to,” she makes clear. “I am living fully for me. I spent so many years of my life living for other people and trying to seek validation, or seek approval, in so many other regards based upon my own upbringing, and now I don’t think I really have prepared for this to air and for some people to find out.”
“I have tried to,” she adds. “I have been given some advice by my Bravo elders of like, ‘You know what? You do you, and you focus on you,’ and that’s really what I am trying to do, and if someone has an issue, then it’s probably not my issue.”
Those Bravo “elders” include Amelia Hamlin, daughter of The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills star Lisa Rinna, and Kary Brittingham, who starred on seasons 4 and 5 of The Real Housewives of Dallas.
“She has been my second mom since I was 17 years old, before she even filmed Real Housewives of Dallas,” Victoria reveals. “She has just been my biggest support system since I was 17, out of community college, working three jobs.”
“It’s just been really amazing to be able to call her and like, ‘What do I prepare for?'” she says. “Especially with advice of like, no matter what, there’s going to be people — Bravo fans are a whole ‘nother ball game — and you’re going to have, no matter what, you are going to receive hate and no matter what, you’re going to have, like, people who love you, and at the end of the day, you can’t please everyone and you can’t — especially growing up in Dallas, you are so used to like, ‘What does the person next to me think right now?’ — you can’t. Your audience becomes too big that you can’t do that anymore, and I think that is one of the biggest blessings — and one of the biggest therapy sessions — that one can have.”
Victoria also has reality TV roots in her family. Her older brother, Dustin, appeared on The Real World in 2011 when he was 25. Victoria says he’s “been the best support system” throughout her experience so far, especially because she filmed Real Girlfriends when she was 25, linking their individual journeys in a way.
“This season is a very emotional journey for me,” she teases. “When I signed up for this, I decided I am going into this as a complete, open book in regards to my career, to my family, to my friendships and my love life, and I deal with a lot of ups and downs in all four of those categories.”
“I am excited actually, not just for the world to see, but I am excited for someone else to not feel so alone,” she adds. “At first, I was really in my head. I think I was still living this Texas mentality of, like, what everyone is going to think of me. … I end up opening up about more and more. If anything, I walked away from this with a lot of emotional growth and inner growth and a lot of healing to my inner child and just in my friendships, in general.”
Those ups and downs also include a reality TV right of passage: throwing a glass of wine (or water). Teasers for the season preview a liquid-launching fight between Victoria and a male friend.
“That would definitely be a first for me, for sure,” Victoria admits, promising it’s not in her character to jump to throwing a drink in someone’s face.
“You know, I am an Aries,” she says. “I love hard and I am very passionate about the people that I love, and you will end up seeing the background of what led up to that and it all came from love.”
As for having to watch the incident back on TV, Victoria’s surprisingly chill about it.
“I don’t think anyone is super proud to see themselves seeing red in a moment, [but] I wouldn’t really cringe at it, because it was authentic,” she explains. “I think that you learn from these experiences.”
Fred Jagueneau / Bravo
Victoria credits best friend turned co-star Margaux Lignel with talking her down in the aftermath of her messy moment, professing she “absolutely could not have done this [show] without my girl,” praising her pal for holding her accountable and encouraging her to embrace “authenticity.”
“And that can be taken in a few different ways,” she notes. “You learn a lot about authenticity.”
Real Girlfriends in Paris premieres with back-to-back episodes on Monday, Sept. 5, starting at 9:15 p.m. ET/PT on Bravo.