By the end of season 1 and in the start of season 2 of The Style Network’s (Facebook, Twitter, Website) “Big Rich Texas” (Facebook, Twitter, Website), we’re left wondering if what Leslie Birkland (Facebook, Twitter) has told the fellow cast members about her life is all a farce. Fans of the show know that Pamela Martin (Facebook, Twitter) makes it her business to sort out matters like this, and took the lead in poking holes in Leslie’s life ever since she expressed interest in joining Woodhaven Country Club. By the end of season 1 and in the first couple of episodes of season 2, Leslie seems to to be lying about a lot of things, so much so, that her on-camera best friend Dr. Bon (Bonnie) Blossman (Facebook, Twitter, Website) has abandoned their friendship.
For those reasons, I leaped at the opportunity to talk to Leslie directly and find out how much of what we know about her is truth or fiction. Since finances have been a hot topic, I’m starting there, but there will be more articles forthcoming that address her relationships with her son Tyler, Goddaughter Kalyn (Facebook, Twitter), cast bestie Bonnie, and newest cast member DeAynni Hatley. I found the Leslie I talked to on the phone to be the very same Leslie we see on TV. She’s sweet, but it feels like I’m talking to a politician. Perhaps, it’s just her pageant upbringing, but she’s not the gal that will give you a simple yes or no, and sometimes I was wondering if she was anticipating questions rather than hearing my own. Not to worry because I don’t back away easily from a topic, so in the end, I did get response to the questions that I and fans of “Big Rich Texas” were burning to know in Leslie’s own words.
INTERVIEW PART ONE: Leslie Birkland
Reason for moving to Dallas
Ifelicious: Why did you decide to move to Dallas?
Leslie: There’s two reasons. Number one, my absolute best friend, her name is Heidi. She is from Dallas and has been talking about Dallas for like the last 25 years. ‘Dallas is wonderful, Leslie. Really, if you’re going to invest in some property, go to Dallas. Prices are right’…Also, because of my pageants…I competed in pageants, and then when I was done competing myself, I just sort of had a knack for training people. So in Texas, not necessarily Dallas, but Texas is so pro-pageant. You come up against a lot people, especially in Washington state, not so much in California that are like, ‘Pageants are stupid. They’re ridiculous. Why would you want to do that?’…at least in Texas people are little more welcoming in regards to pageants and being a pageant trainer.
Ifelicious: Why even join a country club in Dallas if you’re just checking out the area and leasing this condo? Did you just join it because you were going to be on the show?
Leslie: I joined the country club simply because of Connie…Connie is the one that introduced me to everybody. I didn’t know anyone. I met Bonnie at the country club…
Ifelicious: You all are related, right?
Leslie: Ya, we’re cousins by marriage…My mom’s brother married Connie’s dad’s sister, my aunt Linda. We share the same aunt and uncle, and then we share the same first cousin…so there’s no blood that actually flows between Connie and I.
Investing in Woodhaven Country Club
Ifelicious: I know season 1 ended with you saying that you wanted to be an investor in the country club, and then things changed, and it looks like you backed out. What happened with that?
Leslie: With the country club, and this is completely true, I have yet to receive any paperwork. I had a meeting with Mr. [Louis] Scoma…He only bought the club himself a few years ago. It is club member owned…so they offered anybody in the club to buy more into the club, but he was going to show me was the return on your money…and as of today, I haven’t received the actual proposal. What’s kind of funny, the scene- I don’t know how it was cut- when everyone is questioning me about it at the cocktail party. He was standing next to me, and I actually looked at him, but they can only show so much…and I just said in front of everyone, ‘He hasn’t given the proposal yet, so I don’t know if this is a wise decision,’ but that got cut out because it doesn’t make good TV.
Ifelicious: The way it’s edited on the episode 1 it’s [Mr. Scoma] responding to Pam’s probing that he says that somebody dropped out. It’s then inferred that the person is you.
Ifelicious: Yes, so as I ask you this question, I was expecting you to end your explanation with, ‘so I backed out of the deal’ but you’re telling me that you didn’t back out as an investor at the country club?
Leslie: No, I’m still waiting on that proposal…I don’t know who the other investors are. I haven’t even seen the amount that they need or the construction bid. I’ve seen absolutely zero. So that’s really interesting. Oh my gosh! I can’t believe it, so I guess they’re saying that I dropped out on the show.
Ifelicious: The cocktail party conversation amongst the girls seem to be for the purpose of getting you to admit that.
Leslie: I’ve just had friends calling me saying, ‘Ya, I wouldn’t watch this if I were you. They’re actually making you trying to look like you might be fake,’ and I’m like ‘What?’ I never ever lied once on TV or otherwise or elsewhere, but that’s makes better TV.
Side note- I’ve seen episode 1, twice. At the cocktail party, the gals are all together with Mr. Scoma, and Melissa asks, “So who is this investor that backed out?” To that, Leslie responds, “I had already announced to everybody that I was going to be investing, but I just want to put my money elsewhere.” Melissa then follows up with, “You’re not investing at this time,” to which Leslie agrees by saying, “Not at this very time. Actually, what I’m going to do is my attorney and I are going to open up a Pilates studio.” They cut out to an interview where Pam’s happy to proclaim, “I told you so,” then the scene goes back to Leslie where she also announces that she’s enrolling her Goddaughter Kalyn in the Miss America pageant.
Leslie’s Pageant Consulting Business
Ifelicious: With that in mind, you mention at the beginning of season 2 that you’re going to start a pageant consulting business. Is that fully up and operational at this point?
Leslie: What I really did before was pageant seminars…Typically they were in hotel rooms…Sometimes, at bigger pageants…a lot of the girls are inexperienced and so they’re really nervous, so they’ll have like a pageant seminar…I would run the seminars…I kind of specialize in interview, and so a lot of people that I’ve trained [I can manage] over the phone or by email…In Texas, because [pageants are] a little bit bigger…I’m doing something a little unprecedented. I’m having mock pageants with mock judges and an audience…so that these gals won’t be so petrified when they actually go onstage when it counts. That’s sort of the concept.
Ifelicious: How can people learn about your services? Is it online? Do you have a website?
Leslie: It’s not because Tyler, my son, hasn’t put my website together. It’s like under construction right now. Actually, I have another son. He’s older. He’s graduated and has his degree in computer science and so he’s going to try to do some neat things with [the website]. For right now, it’s mostly been word of mouth. In the pageant industry, people are familiar with me.
Ifelicious: How is your new pageant business doing so far?
Leslie: It’s doing really really well, but…I don’t want to give people the illusion that this is some big, huge, monster money making business. That is not my intention. I’m doing it because I love pageants, and I love working people, and I love helping them. So this isn’t like a nine-to-five. I don’t even want it to be like that. I want it to be like where I can just travel and go and do seminars or even host an event and do things like that.
Ifelicious: Is there something else you do on a full time basis?
Leslie: I manage my properties. That’s what I do for a living.
Opening a Pilates Studio
Ifelicious: In episode 1 of season 2, at the fall cocktail party, you mention opening a Pilates studio. Is that out of the picture now?
Leslie: No, that is not out…I’m really excited about it…There’s a gal who has a Pilates studio in Brentwood, California, and I met with her right before we started filming [season 2], and I have a friend who is an attorney, and she wants to invest with me…We were just looking at the numbers, and it may not happen within the next six months, but it is definitely something that I would like do and franchise…It was kind of funny when they were making fun of it [on the show]…I think Melissa and Pam were thinking it was just going to be a Pilates class…In fact, we’re looking at a space in California. I thought I would do it in Dallas, but it just makes more sense because this attorney friend lives in California, too.
Property Management and Ownership
Ifeliicious: In the first episode of season 2, Connie is reporting back on her ‘recognizance mission’ in Washington to the gals and says that you don’t own any properties in Washington. In fact, there’s another Leslie Birkland who’s Asian, lives there, and is the one that owns those properties. Also, Whitney supports this suspicion during her break up with Tyler, telling her mother, Bonnie, basically the same thing.
Leslie: [Tyler] did bring [Whitney] to our family home [in Washington], and it really is on the market. Rick (her husband that passed away) and I have sold it on a contract, so…it’s still a part of the estate…to a woman that we’re basically holding the mortgage on…He had brought her to two of his buildings that he inherited [from his dad]…one is a beautiful apartment building, and it has lovely views of Puget Sound. So, I just thought it was interesting when [Whitney] was saying, ‘Well, they don’t really have anything’…We actually do own another lovely property in that same area that we sold under contract, and we may be taking that back. I don’t know if we’re going to foreclose on it.
But that’s what we do. Other people have really good jobs. They probably make a lot more money than do. That’s just what we’ve done for a living is just being property owners and managing our own properties. Also, on the show, in season 1, I was very forthcoming about what I had, and I did not embellish…but the problem was that somebody would say, ‘Well, Leslie says she is some real estate mogul,’ but I never said that, ever.
…What I find is the most amusing is that there is a lady who lives in the same city. Her name is Leslie Birkland…of no relation to my family. She is a professor at the University of Washington, and she’s an Asian lady, and my sister saw her once at Costco’s because my sister works at Costco, and she just thought it was interesting that somebody had her sister’s name ‘Leslie Birkland,’ but that whole thing seems just so absurd because I have never false claimed to be Asian (side note: i cracked up to myself about the Asian comment) or to be a professor at the University of Washington…I’m still trying to figure out why people are still saying that I’m trying to claim to be this other Leslie Birkland.
Ifelicious: From what I’ve seen in the first couple of episodes, I didn’t take that to mean that you were impersonating her from her career perspective. I thought they were saying, ‘Here’s the real, in quotes, Leslie Birkland who owns properties up in Seattle.’
Leslie: She is a professor. I don’t know what her husband does…and I have to tell you that I kind of feel badly about it…they don’t own any properties, and now because of this, I think she’s probably getting a lot of grief. I mean I certainly wouldn’t go out and try to match anyone else’s names. I’m sure there are thousands and thousands of ‘Pamela Martins’ out there in America… I guess it would be different if this other Leslie Birkland did own a lot of properties and was into real estate, and I was just staking claim to what she owned, but that’s not the case…They’re like a nice family with kids and that’s it.
Ifelicious: OK, so to set the records straight, tell me what you do actually own. I wouldn’t normally ask somebody what they own and what they do because it just doesn’t matter to me, but it’s so much a part your role on the show.
Leslie: It sure seems to be! I have never even actually asked any other cast members what they own. I just wouldn’t do that, and in fact, I’ve never even offered it. It’s only been when I’ve been asked, and Pam’s really the only one to ask me. She’s just determined…I don’t think it’s polite to ask somebody what exactly do you do, and how much do you have. It’s just not my style.
Ifelicious: OK, again, so let’s set the records straight. What exactly do you own?
Leslie: I’m just sort of done with [the question]…I’ve said it on TV when I’ve been asked, and that’s just sort of it because people are very invasive…So much has been posted online already, and it’s actually shocking to me what’s been posted. I can see what hasn’t been posted is any other cast members and the properties that they own or what properties they had. Like I know that Bonnie has had a couple of homes, and I think Connie and her husband owned a home maybe in Plano just because she shared that with me, but I would never go online and look it up… I do have rental properties, I will say this, in the state of Washington, and I own a home in the state of California, and I’m leasing in Dallas, and I plan on leasing.
Ifelicious: I think why this is so important to our perception of you is because ‘Big Rich Texas’ as a show is based around a country club. I’ve never belonged to a country club, but I know it’s very expensive and elite…but I would imagine that there are people will want to know how you were able to be a part of the club, and people just get to be nosy, too.
Leslie: People are nosy! I think people are little nosier in Dallas. I haven’t experienced this anywhere else. It might just bee the whole country club thing. Actually, I do like Woodhaven Country Club. It’s a golf club. There’s a social aspect, but for the most part it is a golf club, and that’s why I like it because, although I took golf lessons in season 1, I’ve been golfing for five years. My house in California sits on the golf course. That’s just what I enjoy.
Country Club Lifestyle
Ifelicious: Is [Woodhaven] the only country club you belong to?
Leslie: I belong to three country clubs. It’s kind of interesting, where I live in California, just by owning a home you automatically…become a member of the country club so that’s real convenient.
There you have it, the lowdown on Leslie and her loot. Next in the series, I’ll be sharing Leslie and her relationships.
You didn’t hear it from me, but…
Pssst! In doing research for this interview, I ran across a rumor that there will be a reunion show at the end of this season. I think the plan is sometime in April, and I have no idea who’s hosting. As soon as I’m able to confirm the details, I’ll be sure to let you know here on Ifelicious Thoughts, via Twitter (@ifelicious) or on my Facebook page.
Read all of my blog posts about “Big Rich Texas,” including an interview with Bonnie and Whitney, by CLICKING HERE.
FrontRow’s D Magazine has awesome and witty recaps of “Big Rich Texas”:
- Big Rich Texas, Season 2, Episode 1 Recap (2-19-12)
- Big Rich Texas, Season 2, Episode 2 Recap (2-26-12)
- A Real American Girl– Big Rich Texas, Episode 2- EXCLUSIVE interview with Leslie Birkland
- Two Winey Bitches: Put a cork in it– Big Rich Texas Season 2, Week 2, Not so Sweet 16
- 24/7 Gossip– Big Rich Texas Leslie Birkland: “I spilled my guts because I have no friends left”
Have you been seeing Leslie’s hair tips during the episodes?