So long, Lydia. After just one season on The Real Housewives of Orange County, Lydia McLaughlin has decided not to return for season nine of the Bravo smash, she tells Us Weekly exclusively. "It's bittersweet," McLaughlin, 32, tells Us. "I compare it to breaking up with a boyfriend you know you're not going to end up with -- it's hard, but overall you know you're doing the right thing." (Bravo had no comment.)
The quirky, Canadian-born magazine entrepreneur and married mother of two isn't the only woman exiting the original show that spawned the entire Housewives franchise: As reported back in September, both Alexis Bellino and Gretchen Rossi were fired from the Bravo smash; Rossi joined the series in season four, and Bellino entered the fray one season later. Pending any other casting changes, the remaining OC women include veteran housewife Vicki Gunvalson, Tamra Barney and Heather Dubrow.
Typically chilled out during her short tenure on the show, McLaughlin assures Us that there's "no epic story" or feud behind her decision to leave the show. "I never wanted to make a career out of being a housewife. That's never really been a dream of mine," says McLaughlin, who shares kids Stirling, 4, and Maverick, 2, with husband Doug. Although producers asked McLaughlin to come back ("I was really flattered!"), she explains, "I want to build my brand outside of the Housewives -- I've always been really honest with the producers about that. I knew that while I was filming it that I probably wasn't going to be doing it again."
To her credit, McLaughlin managed to survive her short tenure on the show mostly keeping peace with all of the often-combative women. "I definitely don't have any regrets," she says. "I got to be kind of a different voice -- I think that my fans love the love and positivity that I brought."
And McLaughlin - who owns Beverly Hills Lifestyle magazine with Doug, 33 -- hasn't ruled out a potential return to reality TV, either. "I definitely have plans to continue to sparkle fairy dust and be a light! I want to develop our own reality show about our magazine and all the glitz and glamour involved with publishing it," says McLaughlin, who also has a burgeoning jewelry line.
As for keeping in touch with her now ex-costars? "I still see Alexis and Gretchen," she says. "Ironically they're not on the show anymore!"
McLaughlin's also undecided whether she'll tune in as a viewer of future seasons. "I feel like because I did have such a great experience with it, I would be sad to watch it," she mused. "It'd be like seeing your ex-boyfriend with a new girl! I'm really grateful for the opportunity!"