Credit: Splash News Photo: The Real Housewives of Orange County on Extra at The Grove in Hollywood, CA, on February 2, 2012

The reality of filming a reality television show isn’t all spa days and manicures; it’s a grueling grind of cameras, endlessly discussed feelings, and tense drama. Wetpaint Entertainment recently spoke with Real Housewives of Orange County stars Gretchen Rossi, Tamra Barney, and Heather Dubrow about the not-so-shiny side of living your life in the limelight.

Heather Dubrow is a new addition to RHoOC Season 7 but a veteran of the scripted small screen. Now a stay-at-home mom, Heather, 43, has an extensive resume as a television actress, with roles in shows like Married... with Children and Stark Raving Mad. Heather, who is seen in previews insisting on telling her costars she’s an actress, says: “I was completely unprepared for [the filming schedule]. I was surprised by how many hours, more than a scripted show.”

“Don’t kid yourself,” Heather adds, “this is a lot of work, puts a lot of strain on your relationships. It’s pretty stressful.” Costar Tamra Barney echoes Heather’s concerns about the stress of the show. Tamra, 44, is a veteran of the show, but says it doesn’t get any easier season-after-season. “My schedule with my kids, it’s been very hard. It puts a lot of strain on my life.” Notably, Tamra’s divorce from her first husband was a major plotline in Season 6.

Gretchen Rossi, no stranger to speaking her mind, says she remembers her initial naïveté about appearing on the show. “I pictured it would be a bowl of cherries, but it’s been a hard knock,” Gretchen, 33, confides. “It’s hard, for me, I like to be friends with everyone.”

It’s hard to be friends with everyone when you are constantly talking about everyone else, Gretchen says. “What’s unique is that you are put in a position to say what you want every moment, which is not real life. We are put in a position to constantly talk about what we’re thinking.”

The biggest lesson for surviving the strain of being a Real Housewife? Gretchen says: “Growing thick skin” and knowing who you are.