From soccer player to soccer mom, Gina Kirschenheiter has been a little bit of everything on her way from North Babylon to “The Real Housewives of Orange County,” the Bravo reality-TV show she joins for 13th season premiering Monday at 9 p.m.
“I’m still trying to figure that out!” the sunny 34-year-old exclaims when asked half-seriously what she wants to be when she grows up. “I was a very typical kid of my generation,” she says. “I went to college, since that’s what you do, and I liked psychology,” her major at Hofstra University in Hempstead, “but not enough to pull the trigger on it” as a career. “My first year out of college I was broke and wanted to travel so I was an international flight attendant for [the since-defunct] North American Airlines. We did charter flights, military mostly. I worked on the Upper East Side [of Manhattan] for the owner of Rallye Motors on Long Island, as their executive assistant. I also worked at the Hofstra [North Shore-LIJ] Schoolof Medicine, where I was going to go back to school for a master’s in health administration, but then I got pregnant with my [first] son and said, ‘OK, I can’t do that.’ Then I became a mother, so that was just my focus.”
Born Gina Archer at a hospital in Rockville Centre, she and her older brother, Chris, a lawyer, were raised in North Babylon by parents Gene and Susan Archer. Gina married fellow Hofstra grad Matthew Kirschenheiter, a financial planner, on May 15, 2010, four days after her 26th birthday. Their eldest of three children, Nicholas, turned 6 last month; daughter Sienna, is 4, and son Luca turns 3 next month.
At North Babylon High School (class of ‘02), Kirschenheiter played girls varsity volleyball, basketball and soccer. “I was captain of the varsity soccer team my junior and senior year,” she says, and was selected for the League III All-League team in 1999 and 2001. Not long after moving from Long Island to California three years ago for her husband’s job, she briefly played soccer in an adult league in Newport. “I was still nursing my third baby. It was like, what was I thinking?” she says, laughing.
She came to join the flagship “Real Housewives” show by chance, she says. A friend in Coto de Caza, where she lives and the setting of the reality show, is friends with the series’ Tamra Judge. “We met at a get-together my friend was having and hit if off, and she [Judge] said, ‘You’d be a really good addition to the group.’ “ Kirschenheiter says she demurred but that Judge “passed along my name and [the producers] called me and before I knew it I was on the show.”
Somewhere around this time, the Kirschenheiters’ marriage ended. Gina filed for divorce on April 2, giving March 30 as the date of separation. “We’ve always been really good friends and realized we’re better as friends than as a married couple,” she says. “We’re trying to be the most amazing parents still to our children. We’re always going to be a family, doing things as a family,” she says, a point punctuated by Instagram photos of the Kirschenheiters at the beach together on Sunday and of her and Matthew and two in-laws at the San Diego Zoo a day afterward.
Matthew will not be on the show, however. “His employer did not want him to,” she says. “It wasn’t a decision having anything to do with our relationship. Pure timing.”
Whatever happens next, she says, “I believe everybody can have a happily ever after and that, that can look different for everybody.”