But now, just halfway through her maiden season, she admits that she may have been a bit naïve when she climbed aboard the reality TV ranks.
"It is more difficult than I thought it would be!" she told PEOPLE while attending Corolle's Adopt-a-Doll event in Los Angeles on Saturday.
"I was just like, 'Yeah, what do I have to lose?! What would people not like about me?! I'm just going to be myself, and I'm going to be positive, and have a different type of voice!'"
It was an inspired, if not somewhat innocent approach to the Bravo franchise, one that was quickly tested by fellow cast members Gretchen Rossi and Tamra Barney.
"When everyone is screaming and yelling, you really can't win in this type of show," the 32-year-old admitted. "It's intense, and those women are intense and they have an opinion, and that's what they've been on the air for so long."
McLaughlin also revealed that the bold personalities and on-screen standoffs aren't the result of editing.
"I think that the ladies are genuinely who they are on the show, and that there isn't a lot of acting," she says. "In some degree some of the worst drama actually happened when the cameras went down."