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January 6, 2012

A Conversation with Teresa Giudice

http://www.jewishjournal.com/blog/item/a_conversation_with_teresa_giudice_20120106/

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Teresa and her new Fabellini Bellini

A few weeks ago I was working on a deadline, my son was sick, I had not slept, and could feel a cold coming on.  It was an oddly stressful day and for some unknown reason, I found myself thinking about Teresa Giudice from The Real Housewives of New Jersey.  She had four kids, what appeared to be a full yet stressful life, and I wondered how she managed.

My own mother had four kids by the time she was 24 and I am in awe of her, so I figured Teresa, reality television fame aside, was probably a remarkable woman too.  I sent her people an email and asked if Teresa would be available for an interview.  I heard right back saying she would be happy to speak with me, and that is how the interview came to be.

Teresa called while she was out with Audriana.  It was weird to hear Audriana talking to her mom because we were there when she was born, and that feels like it was yesterday.  I was not sure what to expect, which I never do when talking to a housewife, but I was surprised by how much I liked Teresa from the first minute we started talking.

Teresa is stereotyped as a lot of things by a lot of people, so if I were going to stereotype her, I would say she is very “Jewish”.  She is funny, honest, and manages to turn every answer into an opportunity to kvell about her kids. She is menschy and warm and I really liked her. We slipped into an easy conversation and the RHONJ seemed irrelevant.

Teresa loved her experience on Celebrity Apprentice and thinks people will love the show.  She was hesitant to do it at first as she had heard it was a hard and stressful, but upon meeting Mr. Trump she was excited to sign on. She had nothing but wonderful things to say about The Donald, and says now that it was a great time and she loved the experience.

When I asked her about all the buzz surrounding her and Victoria Gotti, she laughed and proudly pointed out that there were a few Italian cast members this season, and that she thought Victoria was great.  I am super excited about Celebrity Apprentice.  It premieres on Sunday, February 12th on NBC and I will be here blogging about it and cheering Teresa on.

We jumped from The Celebrity Apprentice to food.  I mentioned to Teresa that I made her meatballs for my son and I was mortified that he said they were as good as mine.  He actually said they were better but I’m in denial.  I told her how I make mine and she suggested I not mix the meat so much, and also roll them looser so they are airy and don’t get dense.

She told me about the dinner she made on Tuesday night that was so good Gia tweeted about it.  She sautéed chicken breast, added sundried tomatoes, spinach, garlic, and fresh grape tomatoes.  She cut the tomatoes in half, and then squished them a little in the pan so the juices came out and add to the flavor.  Squishing the tomatoes is a great little tip.

Teresa cooks for her family everyday, and on the rare occasions she orders in, it’s usually Chinese food, which is her favorite.  She cooks a lot of food and recently has switched to whole wheat or vegetable pasta as Joe is trying to cut down on carbs because they have a bet going to see who can have the best abs by spring and are both taking it seriously and look great.

The kids don’t like the same dinner two days in a row so they will eat leftovers after school for a snack, then have a new dinner when their activities are done.  The cutest thing is that they appreciate how great of a cook their mom us.  If Teresa wants to order in they insist she cooks instead.  I want to go and have dinner at Teresa’s house.  Everyday.

With a new cookbook coming out and her own line of Bellini drinks called Fabellini being launched, Teresa is more than just a housewife.  She is the breakout star of RHONJ and with that comes a lot of baggage. That’s not coming from Teresa, but from me. Teresa and I spoke for almost an hour and not once did she mention her cast mates or thrown anyone under a bus.

We all know I love the Real Housewives franchise and I blog about it often. By often of course I mean it is my crack and I blog about every episode, of every season, of every city.  (Except for Miami and DC, which was a complete and total waste of our time.)  My blogs are recaps and stay focused on each episode rather than the show as a whole.

I choose to write this way because if I comment on what happened weeks earlier, it becomes a soap opera and loses the reality feel for me.  While Teresa understands this approach, it’s hard for her when people form strong opinions while seemingly forgetting the things that led up to the situations that gave them such strong opinions.  Right or wrong, it’s my style.

She reminded me that if you look back to season one, she was exactly the same as she is now, and she is right.  Through all the ups and downs she has remained the same.  She works hard, does not expect anything to be given to her, and most importantly, if she said anything about anyone, she was willing to say it to their face with or without cameras.

Teresa said that you can’t kill a person and then say you are sorry, which I thought was really interesting.  She went on to say that you really need to think about killing someone before you do because there is no going back. One could interpret this in a million different ways, but for me, it’s just about a girl who has been hurt by someone she desperately loves.

The third season reunion show last year was rough because it took place while they were still shooting season four.  She listened to some of the other women speak unkindly about her, and then had to shoot with them the next day.  It was all made just a little bit harder due to the way Bravo brought her immediate family on as new cast members of the show.

Bravo hired her brother Joe and his wife Melissa before they told Teresa about it.  Now haters will say that’s not true, but remember that Bravo is showing us footage of Russell Armstrong, which proves that their potential to be unethical is quite strong.  Teresa was put in a tough spot but manages to move forward, even under tremendous scrutiny.

Teresa loves her family and we talked about it at great length.  Rather than discuss what was said, I’d rather share my take.  Teresa loves her brother in a profound way.  When he got married she wanted to love his wife like a sister.  She is old school in terms of her family values and I think the rift in her family hurts her heart more than we know.

Her father has been in and out of the hospital with bouts of pneumonia, and does not watch the show.  Her mother watches but does not comment because she loves her children and it’s sad for her. At one point when she was talking about her brother, Teresa asked me if I understood what she was saying.  She wanted me to understand and I truly do.

Important to note that I don’t think she was questioning whether I understood, as much as she was trying to understand herself.  Instead of her brother and sister-in-law being excited for her success, they wanted in for a piece of the pie and we all know no good can come of that.  Envy and jealousy ruin relations all the time and they don’t care if you’re family.

Teresa, in my opinion, is the breakout star of RHONJ.  She is on The Celebrity Apprentice, has a successful series of cook books, a husband who loves her, a mother and father she adores, and four spectacular children. This should be a glorious time for her, and it is, but how sad that there is a cloud over it in terms of the jealousy of others on the show.

We see the parts of her family that Bravo wants us to see and Teresa is correct that in order to fully understand her, we need to look at the history of the show.  That’s not how I blog, but certainly a view I take into consideration when formulating my opinion of Teresa.  At the end of the day, after one hour on the phone, I think Teresa is fabulous.

She loves her kids and openly talks about them.  She is really enjoying spending time with Audriana as the older girls are in school, and it reminds her of when she had just Gia.  All the girls are very girlie and all four of them have very distinct personalities.  She talks about them with tremendous pride and even took time to ask about my child.

Teresa takes motherhood very seriously.  She is raising her four girls to be independent and understand the value of working and making your own money.  They will know how to cook and clean, but also know that they can support themselves and their families in the same way a man can. She is raising strong women and that is a lot of work.

Audriana likes to wear hats.  Teresa has bought her several with big flowers on them and Audriana will wear it all day without taking it off.  Gabriella is a little more conservative that the others, Gia is very feminine, and Milania is opinionated.  Teresa told me when Milania famously said, “Gimme pizza you old troll”, she and Joe could not stop laughing.

Milania also is the only one who will not wear what Teresa picks out for her. Teresa admits she like things perfect and Milania has taught her to let some of that go.  She said Milania will pull out clothes that make no sense in terms of an outfit, but when she puts it on, it ends up looking great.  She compared Milania’s style to Punky Brewster, which is awesome.

Teresa feels blessed.  She loves her fans for supporting her, and is grateful for all the opportunities given to her by the RHONJ.  She loves being a part of the show and always stays positive.  She reads some of the stuff written about her, and enjoys Twitter, but at the end of the day the only opinions that matter to her are those of her parents, husband and children.

I know many are wondering if I asked her about the Jewish comment she made last season, and yes did. Well I didn’t ask her, as much as I told her, just as I blogged months ago, I was not at all offended.  Did Teresa’s Jewish friend say she would leave her husband if he lost everything?  Maybe.  Does she speak on behalf of all Jewish women?  No.

Do all Italians know about meatballs?  No.  Do all Jewish women leave their husbands when they lose all their money?  No.  We need to lighten up. Jewish chicks make reservations and Italian chicks make meatballs.  Jewish men will bring you flowers, but can’t fix the garbage disposal and an Italian man won’t bring you flowers but can remodel you house.  Who cares?

I like to think I know when someone is blowing smoke up my ass.  Well, I may not know when the men I’m dating do ti, but I recognize it other women and I feel confident in saying that Teresa is not like hat.  She understands what her blessings are, appreciates the opportunities she’s been given, and if she has something to say, it’s to your face, and I admire that.

I asked Teresa to give me three words that described her and she chose trustworthy, loyal and fun.  After our chat on the phone my three words to describe Teresa would be talented, authentic, and funny.  I really liked Teresa Giudice.  I suppose some will write she’s not like that at all and that’s okay.  Like Teresa, I will take it with a grain of salt.

I asked Teresa if she reads garbage written about her and was surprised to hear that she does. Of course it’s hard, but It propels her to work harder.  She wants her kids to see her happy and if she allows the stories to hurt her, it’s bad for the kids.  Of course it can be hard, but her kids come first and I ended our talk with a great deal of respect for Teresa.

As a blogger of reality television I am not always kind.  I watch these shows and react to what is shown to me.  It’s entertainment and that is my job.  Speaking with Teresa was a reminder that the people on these shows are real.  I feel bad for some of the things I’ve written and while it won’t change how I blog, it may alter some of my colorful vocabulary.

Love her or hate her, it’s only a TV show and if people set aside the extremes, I imagine most of them would really like Teresa.  I hope she gets a cooking show one day because I will watch it.  Teresa is a nice girl and after all she’s been through as a result of RHONJ, it turns out that of all the women, she is the one that has no problem keeping it real.

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