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the ladder

Ann Kaplan is the CEO and President of iFinance Canada Inc., and a participant of The Real Housewives of Toronto.Kayla Rocca/Handout

As a single mother, Ann Kaplan started iFinance Canada, a small consumer loans business, in 1996. The company has now grown to $1-billion in loan applications. But Ms. Kaplan is better known as one of the Real Housewives of Toronto after her 2017 run on the cult reality TV show.

What did you think when the people at Real Housewives first reached out to you?

I wasn’t quite sure at the time what the show was about. I figured that out during the interview. At some point, I thought, “Okay, this is interesting,” because I’m about the most un-housewife a housewife as a housewife could be. I am very much a business person. I think some people do these shows so they can build a business. But I wanted to have fun. You live one life. When an opportunity like that comes along, you grasp it.

Was your run on the Real Housewives a fair representation of what you’re like in real life?

When the show was filmed, I wasn’t under the impression that they were filming me as a business person. Really, what people want to see is behind the scenes in your personal life. They don’t want to see you sitting at a desk, on a computer or on a telephone. And the other people you do business with aren’t about to let you bring cameras into negotiations. So I was portrayed as wealthy rather than as a brain or a mind or someone who thinks.

What about at the office?

Things changed instantly. Suddenly I became Ann the Real Housewife rather than Ann the business person. I’m still thinking I’m walking in the room as Ann the business person and then turning around wondering what everyone’s looking at. It was very awkward because I haven’t changed, but the people around me did. I had to get adjusted to it. And I just kept a sense of humour.

You have no regrets about joining the show?

I had gone through a lot just before we filmed the show, where I had lost two sisters and my mother all in a row, within a year. And I had this strong grounding about me – the deep reality of how short life is. So when I’m thinking about doing the reality show and not, I can’t picture not doing it. It just puts a smile on my face when I talk about it. The people that I met, including the people I worked with, the crew, the housewives, were incredible and are still friends to this day.

How do you deal with the haters?

Well, I posted something the other day, a picture of me on the beach in Barbados, and then someone posts and says, “Oh, she’s highly overrated.” And so I just posted back and said, “At least I have a rating.” We’re living a public life on social media now. Being in the public eye means putting yourself out there because you have to, otherwise it’s the perception that you’ve disappeared and something’s wrong.

I have thought, does it really matter what anyone thinks of me? I care what my children think of me, but I don't care what the public thinks of me. I'm not going to be let being on reality TV define me.

You’re still winning awards, most recently the Woman of the Year award at the 2019 Women in Finance Awards Canada.

That felt really good. To be able to say that didn’t break me, being on reality TV. I still made it in business and I’m still continuing to grow, working full time and working in finance. It’s very interesting because I just won that award, but when I do something such as go with Glamour Magazine to an awards ceremony in New York City, people will post more and comment more on me being at a ceremony where I’m just a guest and nothing hardly when I win Woman of the Year. And I’m so proud of that recognition. It’s interesting that, in general, the public really couldn’t care less if I was successful or not. It’s more the glamour.

Yet being a successful businesswoman doesn’t stop you from being yourself, even if it is glamorous.

I feel a lot of responsibility to make sure that I remain professional. But I can still be a woman. I can still be glamorous. Just because I'm in banking doesn't mean I have to wear rubber boots to work. I can dress up. I can wear makeup. I can do my hair. I love being a woman. I love dressing as one. But I also take my job seriously. So I can be a banker in heels.

You’re in talks for another show.

I’ve had two big offers to do shows since the Housewives and neither one was something that I felt where I wanted to put myself. Not for any other reason than when you have a show that is like the Housewives, your expectation would be to have a really good show [after that]. Right now, we’re just narrowing it down to a concept. It’ll be fun. And it will be personal.

So that first experience hasn’t deterred you from being on reality TV?

Oh, I’m all over it. I loved it. To me, it’s fun. You get up every day and you can do something different and you’re happy and your family’s healthy. Why wouldn’t you do a show if you could have that much fun?

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