Two days after Christmas, the call comes in 10 minutes later than scheduled.
“Sorry,” Martina Navratilova said, laughing. “I just now spent 10 minutes trying to figure out how to use the washing machine.”
The life and times of this 18-time Grand Slam champion has always been something beyond hectic, but the past six months have been positively chaotic. Her wife, Julia Lemigova, is a new member of Bravo’s “The Real Housewives of Miami” cast, and two weeks ago they moved into a sparkling new contemporary waterfront house in Miami Beach.
“Cooking Christmas dinner,” Navratilova said, “we had to heat the ovens the day before to run through the cycle to burn off all the chemicals, because everything is brand new.”
That would be an apt description of her experience with reality television, for Navratilova has found herself, at times, in the middle of filming.
Is it fun?
“It’s fun for her,” she said, referring to Julia. “Me, I run away from cameras. You know me.”
The things we do for love.
“That’s exactly right,” Navratilova said, “It goes beyond compromise.”
They are the first LGBTQ+ couple in the franchise’s history.
After an eight-year hiatus, the fourth season of RHOM features returning cast members Larsa Pippen, Alexia Echevarria, Lisa Hochstein, Marysol Patton and Adriana de Moura, along with newcomers Lemigova, Dr. Nicole Martin and Guerdy Abraira.
The first three episodes are already streaming on Peacock with the fourth scheduled to drop Thursday, Dec. 30. The breathless tease, suggests Lemigova and Navratilova will be featured prominently: “Julia and Guerdy share shocking revelations about their past; Adriana receives a foot massage that rubs Martina the wrong way.”
The real-life stories of Navratilova and Lemigova are actually more compelling, more dramatic than anything today’s reality television could script.
Navratilova – born Martina Subertova – grew up in what was then Czechoslovakia and at the age of 18 in 1975, she was granted political asylum by the United States, where she became a citizen six years later.
Navratilova, outed in a New York Daily News story later in 1981, has never been shy about acknowledging her sexuality.
Yulia Alexandrovna Lemigova was born in Moscow 49 years ago, the daughter of a Red Army colonel. She won the Miss USSR title in 1990 and one year later was second runner-up in the Miss Universe pageant. She met Navratilova for the first time at a dinner party in Paris, where she was a model. Eight years later, they crossed paths again and, in 2014, they were married.
The link to RHOM was de Moura.
“My dear friend Adriana introduced me to the group and I’m so glad she did,” Lemigova told E! News. “I couldn’t believe it at first that I’m actually going to be doing something like that, and when it became real it, was just this overwhelming, exciting, happy feeling to emerge myself in a completely new adventure and universe.”
In the series’ trailer, Lemigova says, “Living in Miami, you can be you – and people accept it. Martina Navratilova … she’s my wife!”
In June, there were news reports that an ambulance had been called to the $8.5 million mansion in the Hamptons that the housewives were renting. Lemigova was treated for “nausea and weakness,” but recovered quickly.
Navratilova and Lemigova bought the Miami Beach property seven years ago and lived in the existing house for the better part of three years. After a tear-down, they oversaw a four-year construction project before moving in two weeks ago – something featured prominently in Episode 1.
“It’s like a cartoon, with all these boxes,” Navratilova said.” The Christmas tree topper … is on top of the boxes. We’ve got a lot of work to do.”
According to Bravo publicity material, Lemigova still operates a small farm outside of Miami, where she “can often be found feeding the chickens or milking goats, among the menagerie of animals on her property.”
When Julia is formally introduced in Episode 1, we see Martina for the first time, coffee mug in hand, on the farm. Later, she contemplates a 500-bottle wine rack in the new house. While Julia is usually attired in the style we’ve come to expect from a Housewife, Martina is more comfortable in jeans, a wrinkled linen shirt and tennis shoes.
So is Navratilova unofficially a Housewife of Miami?
“You know,” she said laughing, “that’s what I’m trying to figure out. Julia is the housewife – but I’m the one doing most of the cleaning.”
With Navratilova’s wit and presence, maybe the RHOM producers should put her on the payroll.
“No [kidding],” Navratilova said. “She gets paid, and I get nothing. I do my work, but ... she’s done so much work on that; it just mushroomed.”
By supporting Lemigova so generously for the RHOM show, isn’t that a currency she can bank for the future?
“I am not so sure,” Navratilova said. “It’s supposed to come back to you when you’re younger. I don’t know about when you’re older. Hopefully, she’ll take good care of me.”
When she’s in the home, Julia will visit her and bring dinner.
“Good to know,” she said.
And laughed again.