Kara Alloway: More Than a Real Housewife of Toronto
By Arianne Granada
Known as the feisty fashionista in Slice’s Real Housewives of Toronto, we sat down with Kara Alloway to learn more about her family life, her philanthropic side, and how she enacts changes for the world in her own way.
It’s been five years since The Real Housewives of Toronto aired, how has your life changed from that point in time?
Incredibly, drastically so. Where do I begin?
Before the show even started, I never really wanted to be on reality television. I wanted to produce reality television. I have a background in journalism, so I see myself as a storyteller. So, before the show, I was in touch with a production company with plans to produce a reality show about charity events. Being involved in that world made me think it would make great organic content for a reality TV show, so I contacted the producers. There was a lot of back and forth until they said “Look, you should do Real Housewives of Toronto! It could be a sizzle reel or your show, you can do a spin-off.” But I never actually wanted to be on it.
Immediately after I came to LA, I was very fortunate and grateful to have tons of acquaintances who connected me with the right people to produce reality television. I jumped right in and I now have three-week projects in development. After RHOT, my world just changed dramatically. I think the show served such a great purpose in helping me get very specific about what I wanted to do, what I saw as my purpose in this world, and where I wanted to go.
Have you kept in touch with the ladies from the show?
You know I get asked that a lot and the thing about that is, it was a really unique situation.
I never really knew any of them beforehand. One of them was an acquaintance of a third party and that was actually how she came on the show. I was working with production and they had the entire cast but they still needed one more person. So I said, “I know this individual and she has a huge personality so, in that sense, she might be a good candidate for reality television.” And then, sure enough, they ended up casting her on the show. She ended up being my nemesis, but it was great casting, so who cares? At the end of the day, I think that was a big thing—the producer in me all along doing the show.
So do I still stay in touch with them? My life did not intersect with theirs, and our paths have never crossed before. I have not seen them at all. I haven’t even run into them in the city; which is kind of interesting since I always say that Toronto is such a small town.
You were quite the fashionista in the show. How has your interest in fashion contributed to your experiences in RHOT?
It was my mom who introduced me to fashion at an early age. I can remember sitting in the waiting room while we went shopping with her. She would show me things like “Do you like this? Don’t just say yes because you want me to buy it. Why do you like it?” She was so good at training me. We would go to Paris and buy a stack of heavy French magazines to bring home and look at, and she would say, “This is nice because it fits well.”
So I have a love of fashion that was ingrained in me at a very young age. It’s how I express myself. If I put on an outfit, it’s either like a character or a statement. It was my intention to use fashion to convey something when I was on RHOT because it is such a big part of who I am that I knew it would be a very big part of my character. I always try to have some secret message in it, so that was my favourite part of the show.
The Realities of Reality TV
The age-old question: Is anything at all real?
It’s such a tough question. How much was real and how much was scripted?
It’s like an improv assignment. So when you sign up for the show, you are assigned a story editor and he says to you, “Okay, Kara. What have you come up with this summer? Any birthdays or fundraisers planned?” and you just sort of lay out everything that’s coming up. He says, “Great!” and he goes away.
The story producer is kind of like the Wizard of Oz—nobody ever meets him! Once he has everything, he looks at the plans of where everyone is going and the footage shot there, then he reads the story and says, “This is the trajectory of the story.” So the talent producer says, “Okay Kara, we want to film you going shopping with this castmate and, by the end of it, she’s going to invite you to the procedure party, right?” So it’s set up like that. So, is it scripted? No. Is it framed? Yes, most definitely.
Have you ever talked to your kids about what’s real and what’s fake on television? Teens can easily get swayed by what they see on the screens.
All the time. It was interesting because my eldest at the time was doing something at university. Someone asked if he ever watched reality television, and he said he never did. I said, “That’s not true. Do you ever watch Dancing with the Stars, a game show, or a cooking show? Well, that’s reality television.” And in terms of social media, they are very much aware that what you see isn’t reality. They help me so much with my social media, so they know.
When I worked at ALLURE magazine, Linda Wells said “A magazine is not a yearbook.”
People would always say, “Oh your models are too skinny, and it’s too much this and that.” And Linda always said to us, “You know, a magazine isn’t a yearbook; a magazine is supposed to be somewhat aspirational. Sure, relatable but more aspirational.”
And that’s what makes great reality television. So I think that when my kids are helping me with social media, they’re like, “Just a second, mom has to put her lip gloss on.” They get it. They know that it’s not a yearbook, and I want to put my best self forward.
I’m really lucky they’re not walking around with rose-coloured glasses. They’re very in tune with what’s real and what’s not.
Life Outside Reality TV: A Mom and Philanthropist
Were there any experiences as a mother of three boys that you were able to apply to the show?
When we did the show, my youngest son was 12 or 13, now he’s 18 and studying at university. The boys said, “Mom, we’re not going on TV.” Initially, they said they didn’t want to and I really didn’t want to force them.
After the first night of filming, I realized “Jeepers, I don’t think I have any allies on this show.” I went running home and I said “Guys, I need you. I need your support, and I need you to come on. But if you still don’t want to do it, it’s okay.” And they were like “No, it’s okay. We’ll do it, mom.”
My kids are really private people, which you know is a big turnaround now that you’re in RHOT. But I have to tell you, they rode the wave. They were such professionals. If anything it made them grow alligator skin.
Are any of your boys following in your footsteps? Is anyone into writing, producing, or even interested in starring in a show?
You know what’s really cool is my husband’s mother was an amazing writer — Norma Alloway. She was a poet, she was a writer, she had a newspaper column, she was incredible! Although I would love to say that my kids got the writing gene from me, I think it comes from both sides. The youngest one wrote some papers in Grade 12 for English literature that I was reading and thought, “Wow!” These are really good.”
They’re all engineers, they’re all very math-minded and science-minded. They’re all in the tech business, but when I see my son write a letter to a business associate, I go “How did you learn how to write like that?” he says “Mom! The hours of crying at the kitchen table before bed, it worked!”
So when you’re not doing the media and parenting, you’re giving back to charities. Can you tell us more about this?
Actually, I just spent some time with Alana Stewart who has just taken over the Farrah Fawcett Foundation. She’s doing a big fundraiser in October in Dallas, which I’m really excited to attend, and even participate in. There is also A Happy Birthday Foundation, where they do birthday parties for at-risk children who might not have opportunities to do that. which I really want to be involved in bringing to Canada.
When I met my husband, he had done a lot of boots-on-the-ground work by going to Africa, and I have never been there. I heard people talk about the smell of poverty but I never really understood what that meant. They said, “When you get off the plane in Malawi, you’ll know what it is.” It’s one thing to sit in North America and write a cheque, but it’s another to actually be there to help. So I said, “Honey, send me.”
Malawi, Nicaragua and Ecuador
My friend, who is a Malawi Chief, is a well-respected, very powerful woman there. She works for an organization called Somebody Cares. My son and I went over there, and we did puppet shows for the kids and helped feed the kids. After we were there, we couldn’t buy anything for about three months. But I was glad we were able to do that together because again, you can write a cheque or watch it on television, but you can’t really experience it, see it, and go, “Oh my goodness.” It gives it a name, and it really brings it to life.
We then went to Nicaragua with water ambassadors and did reverse osmosis to provide clean water to villages. That was really interesting. We also went to Ecuador. When you get into the Medical Ministry International, they assign you jobs and you go with a couple of duffel bags full of medication. You go to these remote villages with supplies, with professionally trained doctors, dentists, nurses, and pharmacists. But there are so many people waiting for you, and you hit two or three villages a day.
It was important for me to share these boots-on-the-ground experiences with my kids because I knew they would also be life-changing experiences for them. These experiences have changed my life forever, and I can’t wait to go back to doing them.
It’s really nice to know this side of Kara Alloway.
It’s a really important side.
My kids always wrote letters to children in South Africa when they were growing up, but there’s really always that detachment. I always tell them, “you put a face to it, a name to it, and it becomes so personal, so real.” I still remember a young girl in a village I met. It’s heartbreaking, but it also speaks to you on a personal level.
Is there anything exciting that we should look out for in 2023 for Kara Alloway?
Yes, it’s really exciting and I really want to talk about it! Right now, all I can say is it’s affiliated with my passion for reality television and my passion for writing, and we’ll leave it at that. It’s going to be so great and I’m really excited about it.
Let’s talk January 2023!