Heather Gay Says She's 'Smarter and Wiser' Since Calling Jen Shah the 'MVP' of RHOSLC in Bad Mormon
When it comes to the newly sentenced Jen Shah, the Real Housewives of Salt Lake City's Heather Gay wishes she knew then what she knows now.
"I met her right before we started filming," the Bad Mormon author tells PEOPLE exclusively of her former "ride or die" best friend. "I only knew her peripherally before that and I got swept up into it, much like the audience did."
"I would love to rewrite the book and say that I'm smarter and wiser and was less duped than I was, but I bought into all of it," adds Gay, 40. "As we know now, it was all a lie, and I think that it's important to remember why we fall for these types of charismatic people, and that's how the book is written."
Simon & Schuster / Gallery Books
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Shah, 49, was arrested in March 2021 and subsequently charged for her role in a telemarketing and fraud scheme. On Jan. 6, she was sentenced to serve 6.5 years in prison and is due to report on Feb. 17 to FPC Bryan in Texas.
In her book, Gay speaks quite highly of Shah, recalling how she suggested her for a new reality show she was joining that needed "diversity" in its cast.
"Jen was a BeautyLabber, and she was fabulous," the Beauty Lab + Laser MedSpa co-owner writes about Shah, who is of Tongan and Hawaiian descent. "Full stop. Every time she came by, she would be dressed head to toe in Gucci silks and four-inch heels."
"When she walks into a room, she leads with her charisma. She's got smarts, grit, survival instinct, soul and loyalty. But perhaps the best part about Jen is that she is just like us: fallible and human. She is messy and she is not afraid to own it. Queen bee may be debatable, but there is no doubt that in this cast, Jen is MVP."
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The mom of three stood by Shah's side all season as she continued to tell her co-stars she was not guilty. However, Shah shocked everyone when she changed her plea to guilty in July 2022.
Gay even flew to New York with co-star Meredith Marks to be close to Shah for the trial.
"Everything changed when she pled guilty," Gay says when asked if she's still in communication with Shah. "This has been dragged out for so long. I've been anticipating her not being a part of it [the show] for a while."
Nicole Weinagart/Bravo/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty
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The book was written by Gay over the last year — and at the time, she wanted to be in the moment with her feelings.
"Well, you have to consider I really was tempted to rewrite history, given the context of everything that's come to light with Jen and her crimes," Gay explains. "My goal when I wrote the book was to write it from my perspective as it occurred."
The book also chronicles Gay's struggles and triumphs as she gets vulnerable with her readers. No stone goes unturned, covering everything from her childhood and leaving the LDS Mormon Church to her brutal divorce and getting her "golden ticket" by joining the Housewives franchise.
"I wrote about what it felt like when I was 8," Gay shares. "I wrote about what it felt like when I was 12. I wrote about what it felt like when I was 15, to be interrogated about touching myself."
She continues: "I also wrote about Jen and Meredith and Mary [Cosby] and Whitney [Rose] in the same way that I met them, which is when I was swept up into this life from the life I had never known before, and the way that I was kind of mesmerized by all of them, and Jen Shah included."
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Bad Mormon is available wherever books are sold on Feb. 7.