The Untold Truth Of Braunwyn Windham-Burke

Braunwyn Windham-Burke became a reality TV star practically overnight. She made her TV debut in 2019 on Bravo's 14th season of The Real Housewives of Orange County. Unlike many of her cast mates, she was actually a literal housewife, and a mother to seven children. Braunwyn told Entertainment Tonight it was a "dream come true" to be cast on the show. "I was a big fan, and I've been watching it the whole time," she remarked.

But like most of her Real Housewives co-stars, cameras would quickly discover Braunwyn's buried skeletons, many of which she volunteered herself, especially during the 15th season. Cameras followed Braunwyn as she got into heated arguments with fellow housewives, came clean about her years of battling alcoholism, and dealt with marital issues. A lot has changed for Braunwyn, who also came out as lesbian in 2020, making this year one of change for the Bravo star. She also told Watch What Happens Live with Andy Cohen that the COVID-19 quarantine forced her to reflect on her life. 

Though Braunwyn's exploits are documented on TV, there's a lot you still may not know about this California girl. Here's the untold truth of Braunwyn Windham-Burke.

Braunwyn Windham-Burke married young

Braunwyn Windham-Burke was only 18 and still in college when she met her future husband, Sean Burke, according to The Orange County Register. The happy couple would go on to marry in 2000, and raise seven children together (via US Weekly). Two decades later, and Braunwyn and Sean were still the picture of success as they celebrated their 20-year anniversary with a vow renewal in Palm Springs, California in 2020 (per People).

But Braunwyn's marriage to Sean wasn't always perfect, as infidelity almost split the Burkes up years ago. On Bravo's The Daily Dish, Braunwyn admitted she cheated on her husband, though they were technically separated at the time. She confessed that her husband was working 25 days out of the month, and didn't prioritize family time. "I just didn't want to be a single mom anymore," she revealed. 

Braunwyn then moved to Hawaii with her kids, and while there, had a casual fling with a man. But after a couple of months, Sean flew out to Hawaii to win her back — and even proposed again. She said yes. Braunwyn and Sean would later go on to have marital issues, but more on that later.

Braunwyn Windham-Burke struggled with her drinking for years

One of the ways Braunwyn Windham-Burke coped with difficult emotions and situations was by drinking. "I've always been uncomfortable in my own skin," she told GLAAD after sharing her battle with alcohol in 2020. "I always felt a little bit not right, especially in social situations." She also revealed to People that her own father died of a heart attack due to alcoholism. Braunwyn found herself going down that same path before admitting to herself and others that she had a problem. She confessed she was an alcoholic during the season 15 premiere of The Real Housewives of Orange County (via US Weekly). "It was a huge weight off my shoulders," she later said on Bravo's Watch What Happens Live.

Braunwyn recounted her history of alcoholism further in a personal op-ed published in GlamourShe started drinking alcohol when she was just 14. Whenever she'd drink, she'd drink until she passed out or became sick. The mom of seven admitted to a co-star during a season 15 episode that she'd gotten pregnant in the past as a reason to stop drinking (via People).

A miscarriage led Braunwyn Windham-Burke down a dark path

A miscarriage in her 30s made Braunwyn Windham-Burke's lifelong battle with alcohol even worse. During a Real Housewives episode that aired in 2020 (via People), Braunwyn confessed to a therapist that she started relying more on alcohol and drugs to get her through one of the roughest patches of her life. "I started taking Xanax and drinking, and it spiraled. I don't remember this, but I guess I went into my closet for about five days," Braunwyn recounted. "I wanted to die, and I remember thinking that that was the best option for everyone in my family because I was so dark."

Braunwyn was so far gone in her misery that she was admitted to the hospital, where she found help. At the time, she already had children, and reportedly said in the episode that her husband kept them away so they didn't have to see their mother in that condition. "I could barely hug them, I was so shaky, I couldn't sit still, I couldn't sleep. It was awful."

If you or anyone you know is having suicidal thoughts, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline​ at​ 1-800-273-TALK (8255)​.

In an effort to grow her family, Braunwyn Windham-Burke turned to IVF

Braunwyn Windham-Burke's journey to becoming a mom wasn't easy, but it was well worth it. She has a total of seven kids with hubby, Sean Burke. Fellow costar Gina Kirschenheiter described Braunwyn's family best in an episode of the Real Housewives (per People). "Braunwynn, you have more than a basketball team of kids," she quipped. 

While most of Braunwyn's children were conceived naturally, some of the younger ones, Braunwyn said, came into being with a little help from science: in vitro fertilization (IVF), to be more exact. 

Braunwyn may have had difficulty getting pregnant, but IVF worked miracles for her, maybe a little too well. "The plan was to have five, but when we got to five, we realized that we weren't complete," she recalled. "We still felt like someone was missing." By the time she used up all her embryos, Braunwyn had seven children. It's probably a nice break for the mom who said she spent almost 18 years breastfeeding!

Braunwyn Windham-Burke and her family moved around a lot before settling in Orange County

Since saying "I do," Braunwyn Windham-Burke and her hubby have lived in several different cities nationwide, but Orange County kept calling them back. Braunwyn was born and raised in Laguna Beach after all; no wonder she felt like a fish out of water when she suddenly found herself trying to blend in with Washington, D.C. socialites. "When I'm living in very conservative Washington D.C., wearing my side dresses that were popular at the time, people would be like, 'Oh, she's from Orange County,' and then they'd kind of laugh about it," Braunwyn told The Orange County Register

Conversely, while living in Miami, Braunwyn felt as though people looked at her as being more conservative. "So depending on what part of the country it made my crazy personality or my more conservative personality make sense," she added. 

Once an Orange County girl, always an Orange County girl it seems. Braunwyn and her family moved back home several years before she became part of The Real Housewives of Orange County cast in 2019.  

This is why Braunwyn Windham-Burke joined the Real Housewives cast

Braunwyn Windham-Burke needed something of her own after years of being a wife and mother. "I've been a stay-at-home mom for 19 years now," Braunwyn told The Orange County Register in 2019. "So when [producers] initially reached out to me I said, 'You know what? Absolutely! I think it's time in my life for me to do something for myself, and I think I would really enjoy this.'"

Braunwyn connected with the show's producers after becoming friends with one of the show's stars, Kelly Dodd. Braunwyn was always a huge fan of the show and would watch it most nights when she'd put her kids to sleep, telling the Register it was her guilty pleasure. 

In an interview with People, Braunwyn revealed that she doesn't regret her decision to join the Housewives during the 14th season. "I've learned a lot about myself," she added. "I feel like becoming a housewife has been one of the best decisions I've ever made because it made Braunwyn a fully formed person instead of just a mom."

Braunwyn Windham-Burke surprised fans when she announced this

Braunwyn Windham-Burke shocked fans when she revealed big personal news: she told GLAAD that she's a lesbian. "I like women. I'm gay," she exclaimed in the December 2020 interview. "It's taken me 42 years to say that." Braunwyn also explained to GLAAD's Anthony Ramos that on her road to recovery from alcoholism, she realized it was time to come out, and own who she is. Additionally, Braunwyn said she's never been straight or attracted to men, though she's married to one, but hid that fact from others and herself for so long.

Braunwyn already has a girlfriend who goes by the name of Kris (per People), and seems to be in a happy relationship, even sharing a selfie of the couple on an Instagram story (per People). And though it was a surprise, true Housewives fans may have already suspected it. Although Braunwyn was never openly gay on the show, there were certain clues she was queer. Like the time Braunwyn made out with former co-star Tamra Judge. Or the time when Braunwyn confessed to having three ways with Sean Burke and another friend (always a woman) on his birthday every year. 

Braunwyn Windham-Burke decided to have an open marriage with her husband

Braunwyn Windham-Burke and her husband, Sean Burke, appeared to be the picture of a happy couple, especially after renewing their vows for their 20th anniversary in early 2020 (via People). However, Real Housewives fans should've seen the shakeup coming. After all, almost every couple who has televised their vow renewals on the show have later broken up. Look at Vicki and Donn Gunvalson and Shannon and David Beador. Need we say more? 

However, this situation isn't as simple as two people merely drifting apart. Although Braunwyn announced she's a lesbian in 2020, she doesn't have plans to divorce her husband anytime soon. "Sean and I are still married, I plan on staying married," Braunwyn told GLAAD in a 2020 interview. "We are not sleeping in the same bedroom right now, but we are in the same house. We are raising our kids together, he's my best friend." He even knows who Braunwyn is dating. 

That same month, Page Six spotted Braunwyn and Sean in Santa Barbara celebrating their daughter's birthday. Looks like this open marriage thing is working out for them so far.

Braunwyn Windham-Burke is a supportive mom

Braunwyn Windham-Burke is a mom to seven kids, which we bet can get a bit overwhelming. Even so, she seems to be able to give each child the attention and support they deserve. Notably, Braunwyn announced on Instagram in January 2020 that her oldest son planned "to give the world of Drag a try." Since then, she's shared photos of her teen son, Jacob Windham-Burke, wearing makeup and dresses, like this one, in which Jacob is in full drag, and goes by the name Divine Devon. "We are so proud to be your parents and honor your strength," Braunwyn wrote in the caption. 

Braunwyn also helped her second-oldest daughter, Rowan Windham-Burke, deal with an eating disorder and obsessive-compulsive behavior (OCD), according to Bravo's The Daily Dish; the teenager has shared her mental health battle on YouTube. Braunwyn told People her daughter gave her the green light to discuss her struggles on the reality show. "She said, "Anything 'cause I wanna help whoever I can,'" Braunwyn shared. It was tough on Braunwyn, who said she wanted to protect her daughter from social media backlash, but she did as her daughter asked. 

Braunwyn Windham-Burke's path to sobriety hasn't always been easy

The road to sobriety isn't easy, and Braunwyn Windham-Burke can attest to that — especially when she's on a reality TV show where the cast is always at some bar or gala drinking up a storm. In a Season 15 episode of The Real Housewives of Orange County, Braunwyn told the cameras she was scared to reveal to the other housewives she's an alcoholic and made the decision to stop drinking. "There's a fear that I'm going to lose Shannon [Storms Beador] as a friend," the OC Housewife told cameras. "We've always been drinking buddies." 

Despite the fear, Braunwyn knew she had to sober up. She told Entertainment Tonight she quit drinking on January 23, 2020. However, this wasn't the first time she'd tried to get sober. "I went to rehab 10 years ago, this is not new," she revealed. She thought she could do it on her own and just stop drinking, but it proved too difficult. Braunwyn said the Real Housewives production crew, who she's grown close to, was instrumental in getting her to attend her first Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) meeting.

Braunwyn Windham-Burke is closest to this former Real Housewives star

Braunwyn Windham-Burke is closest to this Real Housewives alum: Tamra Judge. Although Tamra left the show after 12 seasons prior to the 15th season, according to People, Braunwyn and Tamra got to know each other well during their time as co-stars. 

According to a post on Braunwyn's Instagram page, Tamra was the only Real Housewives star that was there for her following her announcements that she's a lesbian and an alcoholic. "She knew I was sober and kept it to herself, she knew we were struggling with our daughter's mental health issues and listened," Braunwyn wrote about Tamra in the caption. "She got me through a day that was so hard I was physically shaking." They're clearly #friendshipgoals. From making out at Shannon Beador's birthday party to celebrating the holidays together, Tamra and Braunwyn's friendship has only gotten stronger with time.

Braunwyn Windham-Burke has battled skin cancer most of her life

Braunwyn Windham-Burke was first diagnosed with skin cancer at age 19 — more specifically, stage two malignant melanoma. "I was very young and we had to go through radiation," Braunwyn shared with fans in an Instagram story (via Bravo). "I had to get it cut out. I have a huge scar." 

As she's gotten older, Braunwyn has made it a point to get her skin checked every four months. It's a good thing she does that, too, because in early 2020 Braunwyn discovered a mole that ended up being positive for melanoma. Fortunately, doctors were able to treat it quickly, and nip it in the bud before it caused any further issues. Braunwyn shared with fans the news via an Instagram story (per Bravo) to caution fans. In one photo, she wrote "Get checked often!" to remind people to be on top of their health. 

Braunwyn isn't the only housewife who's been diagnosed with skin cancer, either. According to Bravo, alum Tamra Judge was also diagnosed with skin cancer

Braunwyn Windham-Burke lives in this stunning house that has its own nightclub

Braunwyn Windham-Burke's home has a pirate ship and a trendy nightclub. Yes, you read that right. It looks like Braunwyn and her family live pretty lavishly in Orange County. She explained in an Instagram story (via Bravo) that her family had to move out of their former house after encountering problems with filming for the show and permitting. However, it looks like they've won in this situation. Braunwyn gave viewers a tour of her new estate on Bravo, and we're officially jealous. 

Braunwyn shared that her family spends most of the time at home in the kitchen, which features an island large enough to sit all her children. When her kids want to play, they can hang out in their own pirate ship, a two-story playground replete with bunk beds and a loft. And when mom wants to play, all she has to do is invite all her favorite housewives over to her very own nightclub. "We have so much fun in here. We invite all our friends over, we dance the night away, and we have the best time," Braunwyn told the cameras. We bet they do!

This is how Braunwyn Windham-Burke stays in great shape

Seven kids later, and Braunwyn Windham-Burke looks like she's never been pregnant a day in her life. How does she do it? Well, according to her Instagram feed, one way she stays fit is by doing pilates with her daughter, Rowan Windham-Burke. According to Bravo, she also loves working out at Orangetheory, a group fitness studio with locations across the country. 

Braunwyn is clearly proud of her bod. She loves sharing sexy swimsuit photos of herself, like this one, with her many, many Instagram followers. Braunwyn also likes sharing fitness and diet tips. Per Bravo, she's had several Instagram followers ask her how she stays fit, and she said that she approaches fitness more positively now than she ever did before. "I work out to be strong instead of skinny," she explained to one user. "It kinda shifted my entire mind set." 

Braunwyn also swears by Belly Bandit, which helps her get rock hard abs after every pregnancy.