Hollywood, the networks, cable TV — they just think they know neighborhoods and their women.
“The Real Housewives of (pick one: Orange County, New York City, Atlanta, New Jersey, Beverly Hills, Vancouver, Miami)” — those are “reality,” which, as everyone knows, is only “TV ‘real,'” more or less.
Before that: “Desperate Housewives” — pure fiction.
“Housewife” and “housewives” had almost fallen out of use as insulting throwbacks until TV came along and rescued them, granting them a certain risque cachet. “Homemaker” had long replaced “housewife” — and even “homemaker” had become worn.
But “homeowner,” that's another thing, a real one — a real real one — and P.B. Odom III can spot one at a suburban mile.
Make it five. Five women homeowners, walking right down the middle of the street. Hollywood writers didn't write it — but Odom, longtime developer and amateur photographer, realized immediately that it was a picture worth the proverbial 1,000 words.
Driving around his Talavera neighborhood at SW 164 and Santa Fe one afternoon last winter, Odom happened upon the scene made for TV — or at least for marketing: a quintet of women striding purposefully down a street, each pushing a stroller.
“And it struck me. I thought, ‘Man this is phenomenal. This is great, because these are real homeowners,'” he said.
Odom pulled out his trusty camera, a constant companion he keeps handy partly for just such occasions. He introduced himself and asked if he could shoot a few pictures.
“It was definitely interesting,” laughed Melissa Miller, who was among the five. “But you couldn't miss us because we were taking up the whole street.”
Ashley Blackburn said she recognized Odom right away, “because I'm the nosy neighbor.”
The five — Miller, Blackburn, Arrin Hill, Sarah Zantout and Marissa Stuckey — are all friends and frequently walk the neighborhood together.
“People are always outside, be it children or adults,” Blackburn said. “It's the best way to meet the neighbors.”
Odom told them he'd taken lots of pictures in his neighborhoods over the years. “Sometimes they come out, and sometimes they don't,” he said.
So he took several shots of the group in Talavera that afternoon. “And lo and behold, they came out good,” he said, laughing.
Odom decided to work the shot into a new billboard campaign for Talavera, inspired, more or less, by Bravo TV's “Real Housewives” series.
“These are moms, these are homeowners, and there's babies, too,” he said. “These aren't housewives. These are homeowners.”
For the homeowners themselves, though, the new billboards proved to be quite a surprise.
“I think we were kind of shocked,” Miller said. “We all sent a group text message about it.”
Blackburn said she initially thought no one would recognize them.
“But I've had a couple of people text me and ask, ‘Um, are you on that billboard?' And I was like, ‘Yeeeah.' But I think it's fun,” she said.
Talavera has been under development since 2004 and is about halfway done, Odom said. The neighborhood will have 600 homes once it's finished, ranging from about 1,500 square feet to more than 3,000 square feet.
“It has been phenomenally successful,” Odom said. “There has been no slowdown since we started.”
Talavera homes offer an Old World air created by Odom's daughter, Rachel, who drew on memories of a 1997 sojourn in Spain where she studied economics in Madrid and polished her Spanish via the deep-end-of-the-pool method. Rachel Odom, who went on to graduate from the University of Oklahoma two years later, said the immersion approach worked.
“I never really took Spanish at OU, but I learned it,” she said. “I got a minor in it by immersing myself in it.”
Her roommate, Cristina Sanchez Ojea, hailed from Talavera de la Reina, a city about an hour and a half southwest of Madrid. The roommates spent many holidays with the family in Talavera, and those warm memories led to much of the Oklahoma City neighborhood's character as well as its name.
“And I'll always have a good memory of Talavera,” Rachel Odom said.
Closer to home, the Real Homeowners are dealing with their moment in the sun.
“It's really funny,” Zantout said. “It was kind of surprising, but we've gotten a good laugh out of it.”
Meanwhile, Blackburn said she is tamping down some sibling rivalry between her children Alexandria, 6, and Mitchell, 3. Mitchell is in the stroller his mother is pushing in the billboard picture.
“My daughter said, ‘Man, I didn't get to be on the sign but Mitchell did.' And I'm like, ‘Oh, you can barely see Mitchell.'”
Miller, whose 5½-month-old twins, Jackson and Harper, were in the stroller, said they pass the billboard all the time.
“It's pretty exciting,” she said. “It'll be a good memory for the twins.”
Real Estate Editor Richard Mize contributed to this report.
I've had a couple of people text me and ask, ‘Um, are you on that billboard?' And I was like, ‘Yeeeah.' But I think it's fun.” Ashley Blackburn