Gail Vaz-Oxlade made her name as a TV financial guru through the Frantic Films-produced series ‘Til Debt Do Us Part which ran for eight seasons on Canada’s SLICE and was picked up by CNBC at the end of 2009. Despite the success of ‘Til Debt, Vaz-Oxlade was looking for a change. Now she and Frantic are in production on a new financial reality show Princess, which takes the process of taking control of your money and your life to the next level as she challenges debt-ridden single women to come to grips with their finances. Realscreen spoke with Vaz-Oxlade about her career as a no-nonsense financial planner and how the new show will be different from ‘Til Debt.
To what do you credit the popularity of ‘Til Debt Do Us Part?
A couple of things. The first is that money is deadly boring. It’s like ‘make-people-go-to-sleep’ boring. And the way money is delivered [on television] for the most part [is with] a bunch of talking heads speaking in a language nobody can understand. ‘Til Debt Do Us Part is the first show that puts money in a context that people can actually get. The rules are very simple: don’t spend more money than you make; save something; get your debt paid off and if there are potential risks, mitigate those risks.
The other thing that ‘Til Debt does that hasn’t been done before, is we put the money in the context of a [person's] life. So we’re using the mythology of a person’s story to set the backdrop for the money lessons. People are engaged in the story as opposed to being lectured to on the money stuff. I’ve been doing money for 25 frickin’ years, but [now, in the] right time/right place, I knock people upside the head and apparently that’s something people like to see.
What’s the biggest budgeting mistake you see couples making?
People have no idea how much they’re making and they have no idea how much they’re spending. Really?! That’s the biggest mistake they’re making, they just don’t know. Because we have such easy access to credit or lines of credit, people have totally stopped paying attention to how much money they make.
Working on your new project, Princess, how different are these people than the subjects of ‘Til Debt?
They’re very different. ‘Til Debt was a relationship show, there were two people in the process [so] when one was reluctant I had the advantage of having the other one and trying to drag them into reality. That made it easier. Sometimes I hit two walls, but it was very infrequent. Princess is a completely different show than ‘Til Debt. This is about how you can have the things you want in your life if you know what they are. So this whole show is geared to helping people – regardless of their ages – grow up and get with reality.
We take these women – and I’ll feature a man the minute I get one – through a process of saying, ‘You have to live within your means so here are the tools you need to do that.’ You have to face the fact that, if you have been living in this designer world where you eat out six nights a week, that is not the real world for you, you don’t make that kind of money.
The girls have to go through a process where they have to learn to set short- and long-term goals. Ultimately they’ve usually been taking advantage of someone or there is a disconnect with reality that they could end up living on the street because they’re so destitute. So there’s a payback component to this, and this show ends in a test, and if you don’t pass the test too bad. I’m tougher on this show than I was on ‘Til Debt and fewer people are successful because the gap from where they are to where they need to be is bigger.
Princess will premiere on SLICE in September, 2010.