Former 'The Real Housewives of New Jersey' star Dina Manzo talks about the drama, the rumors, and tonight's return to the show

Dina-ManzoImage Credit: Andrei Jackamets/BravoFormer The Real Housewives of New Jersey star Dina Manzo made a surprise exit this season, right before the hair extensions hit the floor. In tonight’s episode, the designer-turned-event planner returns for goddaughter Audriana Giudice’s baptism. EW caught up with the most mild-mannered of the Manzo clan to see how it felt to say goodbye to the camera, and what it was like to return.

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: So tonight you’re back for Teresa’s daughter Audriana’s christening. Did you have any concerns with appearing on the show after you had left?
DINA MANZO: Well, obviously I knew it was going to be filmed. I did it because I am her godmother, and what am I supposed to do? Not show up? But I was against the church being filmed and I lost that battle big time. I just felt that something so sacred as a baptism shouldn’t be in the same episode as some crazy stuff that goes down in the show. If you can see in the previews, there’s a fight between Kim G. and Danielle that’s [pretty crazy], and then we’re baptizing beautiful Audriana. So for me, I’m super sensitive to that sort of thing because I take it super seriously. So maybe the world may not see a problem with that but I was kind of against the church being filmed. It was a beautiful ceremony, and the party was outrageous, and my company [Designer Affair] did design it, so I’m pretty excited to debut.

What else have you been up to since you left the show?
[Designer Affair is] working out great. I oversee the planning of these parties and the girls that I trained run the events. I was doing interior design for years — 20-some-odd years — and I flipped it over to event planning, so that’s primarily what I do now: plan events weddings, corporate events, anything and everything. [You’re] designing a day instead of a home. It’s the same concept, it’s just about four hours instead of people’s lifetimes [laughs]. I love it. It really keeps my creative juices flowing. Project Ladybug of course is a huge part of my life and we’re in the process right now of opening up another chapter in another hospital. There’s two different hospitals, one in New York and one in Chicago that I’m talking with, and I’m super excited about extending it. That was my goal to bring the fun to hospitals around the country. So we’re working on that. Really exciting things are happening, and I’m super proud to have founded four years ago something that started around my dinning room table with some girlfriends that has really become national.

Would you say your idea of what Real Housewives of New Jersey was changed from when you began filming the series to when you left the show?
Absolutely. I don’t blame Bravo, because people love drama. They love to see that sort of thing. Especially because my family was involved, and we’re certainly not the normal family. We do a bunch of crazy things. But we’re good crazy — there’s a difference between good crazy and bad crazy. We’re fun crazy. But I felt it was going to be a really fun, family-type show, and especially with season 2, it went in a totally different direction and I felt it wasn’t what I signed on for.

Some reports on your reasons for leaving the show have to do with Danielle trying to make you lose custody of your daughter Lexi. Is there any truth in that?
The only thing I’ll say is the reason why I left the show is why I said I did on the show. There’s a lot of rumors spinning around, “Oh you left because your daughter wasn’t allowed on camera,” or “You left because you’re trying to hide your husband’s lifestyle,” and I’m like, I left exactly why I said I left. The drama was getting too much for me, I don’t need that in my life and that’s exactly why. I have no other reason.

And your husband was never on the show.
No, he didn’t want to be on it from day one, and I respected that.

How did he take your decision to leave? Had he always been your sounding board for all of the crazy that went on?
He was where I went to get away from it all. It actually made our marriage even better. You know, I don’t regret it at all. It was the best thing ever. He never told me, “I want you to leave.” I knew he wasn’t thrilled I was doing it, and he’d see how upset I was getting, [but] he’s not one to tell me what to do. But when I left, he was thrilled.

Has it been difficult at all with the rest of your family now that you’re no longer filming?
During the filming it was a little difficult, because there were certain places that I usually would’ve been that I wasn’t. You know, if they went out to lunch. Obviously there’s a trip to Italy coming up that I was invited to and stuff like that where I probably would’ve gone. It would have been difficult for me to go and stay off-camera. So here and there, yes it was difficult. As far as now, it’s kind of normal. We’re off-season, so it’s kind of business as usual. There’s nothing I’m trying to avoid other than talking about a certain someone, but other than that it’s pretty breezy.

Is it strange to watch the show as an outsider?
No, for me it was always I felt like I was watching a home video anyway. I never really grasped the concept that millions of people were watching myself and my family on television. So now when I watch, it feels like I just popped in a home video, so you never really get used to that. I kind of like it better now because I don’t cringe when I see myself. Like, “Oh I shouldn’t have worn that,” or “Why didn’t I put my eyelashes in that day?” It’s kind of like going to Oscars and not being nominated. You don’t have to worry. You just sit back and chill.

Do you think you were accurately portrayed on the show?
This season for sure. Last season, of course, they had so much footage — it was like a crazy amount of hours that they shot — and they were following a story, you know, with the book last year [Cop Without a Badge], so of course whatever aired was my reaction towards the book and all that nonsense so I seemed to be agitated all season. But I wasn’t. It was just when that storyline came up. So that was a little frustrating. Obviously, they don’t have time to follow us around to [see] everything we do, and especially if it’s not drama-filled they don’t really want to be there. It’s hard. They can’t show exactly who we are.

What about the other women? Is Teresa really how she is on the show?
Teresa is exactly how she is, the only difference is…I’ve been friends with her for 15 years and I’ve never seen her angry. She’s like the most laid-back person ever, so everything you see — bringing a million bathing suits for one night, and how silly she is and she has her Teresa-isms — that’s completely her. As far as her being crazy and chasing people, I’ve never seen that before. I think certain situations bring that out in her and I’ve never been around her for that.

Did you know Kim G. prior to what we saw this season?
I didn’t know her at all. Obviously my nephew is friends with her son, so I’ve heard of her and she’s neighbors with Jacqueline, but I never met her at all. Nor Kim D. My first meeting with Kim D. was on air at the Sheriff’s party.

Everyone seems a little confused by her, and obviously the viewers have their own ideas. What’s your opinion of her?
The girls seemed to have no problem with her. I don’t know her, so I don’t want to say whether she’s a good person or a bad person. In my opinion, I think she was vying for some airtime, and she did what she had to do to get it. I think she really loves being on television [laughs]. She worked it, and you know what she did a good job. Wait until you see this week’s episode, it’s crazy.

Would you say the same goes for Kim D.?
Well, you know what — I did have an encounter with her before, when we were shooting our opening shots for last season. She was Danielle’s stylist…

And I guess she didn’t like me ’cause Danielle didn’t like me, so I walked in and she slammed the door in my face, Kim D. So that’s the thing I knew about her, that this blonde woman slammed the door in my face, I was like, “Oh, hello,” and I saw her that night at the Sheriff’s dinner. So my first impression of her wasn’t a good one. Again, I don’t know her personally. I just know that maybe that wasn’t the kind of person I would [be friends with].

What do you think about some of the things that have gone down since you left? Especially the fight at North Jersey Country Club, the hair pull, the lawsuit, etc.?
Obviously, like everyone else, I think it’s completely crazy, and it’s hard for me. Because that’s my family, my friends that are in the middle of this. But I get it, like, when people lose it — you know when Ashley lost it and pulled [Danielle’s] hair out — because I’ve been there. When somebody just pushes your buttons and pokes and pokes and pokes and finally you snap. So do I think it’s okay? No, but I get it. There are definitely points where I’m like, “Oh my god, how are we going to walk out our front doors anymore?” but at the end of the day it’s entertainment. Obviously America loves it, the ratings are going up and up, so it is what it is. There’s not much that we can change. I just wish that it didn’t get to all this. We could have had a really funny show on our hands if we just kept to our crazy family.

Have you seen Danielle since your last appearance together on the show?
I believe there was one Bravo event that we had to go to, but they kept us on different sides of the room. It was quite silly, really, that we’re all grown women, [but] it’s like back in high school. You know, just in case, they didn’t want us near each other.

Danielle seems obsessed with your friends and family. Do you have any thoughts on what she should do next? Any advice for her?
I tried to rationalize with her, sit, and have a conversation, so I don’t think I’ll be giving her anymore advice [laughs]. Again, it makes good TV. What’s unfortunate, what some people don’t understand [is that] when they go to the next franchise, when [Real Housewives of] DC comes out, we’re left with the sh–storm, you know? Like, our lives go on with this, it doesn’t go away. I don’t think a lot of people get that, that this isn’t a scripted show. It’s real life and the more things escalate, the crazier the show gets, and then it goes on and the next Bravo hit is out there and we’re kind of left with this mess. I hate that. I wish I didn’t get so dark, because unfortunately these things don’t go away right away.

Comments (50 total) Add your comment
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  • Rasha

    Dina was the only sane one. I wish they’d fire Danielle, bring in a new person and bring Dina back.

  • Helene

    Her grammar is terrible

    • Jane

      I agree. HOTsss needs to go back to grammar school.

    • Fallon

      It’s probably poor transcribing on EW’s behalf. Plus, if she was saying stuff incorrectly (like the first line) shouldn’t they be putting (sic) after it anyway?

  • betsy

    I hate the way they always defend Ashley and Teresa.

  • me

    Way to ask the hard questions. *eye roll*
    It is DINA’S family that’s obsessed with Danielle, not the other way around. Pay attention, puh-lease. :) I honestly hope Teresa and Caroline get fired next for refusing to participate in the events on the show.

    • Katie

      Yikes. Delusion, party of one? I bet your wearing a Danielle’s Mafia tee right now.

    • Rachel

      Seriously? Are you watching the same show I am? Danielle is some special kind of crazy.

    • Shelly

      Danielle, check yourself into a psych ward. You are so frightening and deranged.

  • Cali girl

    Dina was the only decent NJ housewife. I knew I liked her when… Teresa flipped the table and Dina told her daughter this isn’t right and she shouldn’t be witnessing the whole chaotic mess between all the adults.

    • gina31047

      agree..but real class would have been to grab her daughter and left the scene.

  • amy

    Wow this article was super interesting. It was super great to hear Dina’s super opinion of the super situations happening involving her her super family. Seriously? Oh well I guess it was better than reading anything horrendous Teresa or Ashley have to say. Can they just make a spin off of the three Manzo kids, the only good people on the show?

  • Just Super

    I couldn’t help it … I just wanted to say S U P E R … one more time!

  • Jenny

    How could somebody watch RHONJ and think that Danielle’s not obsessed with the Manzo family? She’s stalking Caroline at her house with her daughters in the backseat, she’s pretending she’s punching them in a boxing ring, etc., etc. Caroline’s correct, Danielle IS garbage and her disgusting sex tape is the proof. My heart goes out to her daughters.

    • SaraJ

      a) She didn’t stalk Caroline’s house, she did a drive by innocently at the very beginning of the season. Big deal.. my family go on rides all the time and look at houses of people we know.
      b) Are you kidding me? Teresa antagonized Danielle until she was literally RUNNING from her, and then Ashley assaulted her. Danielle’s had a background full of abuse and it showed in her terrified reactions. Good for her for taking boxing lessons!
      Geez I swear people will look for the worst in others as long as there’s “mean girls” like the Manzos telling them to.

      • jerzeegirl

        That drive by was NOT innocent! She wishes she was invited…she would’ve shown up with bells on. The other ladies are no angels but Danielle is a vile poor excuse for a woman. Always the victim but her true character always comes out.

      • Marsha

        An innocent drive-by? Just saying…

      • Anon

        You and your family drive by the houses of people you know? That’s incredibly creepy. No wonder you’re defending Danielle.

      • jennrae

        Saraj, I thought you were kidding until I read your whole comment. I’m sorry to say that you just aren’t seeing Danielle for what she is at all. That wasn’t a drive in the country–she was looking for trouble! I can’t believe there’s anyone who saw otherwise.

      • Mimi

        Saraj, who brings friends “with guns” to a dinner meeting with a woman like Caroline? Who brings ex-cons and biker boys to a charity event? You’re as crazy as Danielle if you don’t see it.

      • Margo

        Danielle, this has to be your replying…you are a psycho. You spread vile rumors and gossip behind the scenes and try to destroy people’s lives. Evil. You are the one who is completely obsessed and demented. You are trash, and so are your “friends”… “Danny”. Get therapy for the sake of your daughters.

      • Annette

        Saraj IS Danielle. Danielle is completely and utterly deranged. Ugly inside and out and completely deranged and obsessed regarding the others.

      • To SaraJ AKA Danielle

        Danielle, stop replying to these comments in defense of yourself you idiot.

      • NA

        SaraJ (Danielle, her PR people, or whoever you are)… This is like another Charlie Sheen train wreck. I know drama makes for great ratings, but Danielle is very ill. I cringe everytime she pops up on the screen. I really do think she is skitzo. I feel bad that this exploitation of her illness is being allowed to air on T.V. Plzzzz I pray someone commits her for at least a 72 hour forced evaluation.

  • Britters

    Dina is by far the most rational of the housewives, loved seeing her back on tonight’s episode.

    I want to feel bad for Danielle sometimes, especially tonight, but my god she makes it so hard to. She’s dug herself a hole so deep I can seriously not find it in me to give her the benefit of the doubt.

    Look at her daughter saying her friend heard from her the woman who did her eyebrows that she was looking for her birth mother. Her daughter mentions that the woman said Theresa goes there too & Danielle turns that into “THERESA IS TALKING ABOUT ME TO STRANGERS, etc.”

    So psycho. I can’t even.

    • Absolutely

      Thank you! I thought I had missed something there. It was just a comment that Teresa goes there too and Danielle explodes it to Teresa talking about her?! I’m sorry but she’s certifiable.

  • Buffy Freak

    I love how people take sides…”Danielle is a psycho” or “The other women are obsessed with Danielle”. As if ANY of these women are anything but attention-seeking fame skanks.

  • E

    I liked Dina and miss her on the show. She and Caroline are actually women that if they lived in my ‘hood, I wouldn’t mind being friends with. The others–not so much.

  • Helen

    Reads like Staub’s PR team are earning their fees posting pro Staub comments on the message boards

    • EmilyR

      Nope, I’m on Danielle’s side and I live in Portland OR.

      • brymol85

        Heh…Of course you’re from Portland, OR. And of course you’re on Danielle’s side.

        Another moron in the Pacific Northwest.

    • Nance

      brymol85 you should take back what you said to EmilyR. That is probably the most ignorant comment ever “another moron in the Pacific Northwest”, wow stereotyping people for where they live. The truth is its either team Danielle or Manzo and no in between. As I said, in reality all NJ housewives are mean, bizarre, bankrupt, and living way beyond their means. Maybe you should join them because you seem to fit in that category. I only watch it because their nothing but silly, entertaining clowns to me.

  • LB

    Danielle is obsessed with the Manzo family, and the girls (with the exception of Caroline) are obsessed with Danielle. That doesn’t make Danielle any less crazy/delusional or the girls any less the “mean girls.” Both sides are acting completely ridiculous and immature. Ultimately I think Danielle is special kind of delusional and insane, but the other girls are by no means innocent. And the Kim lady–she’s a flashing neon sign that says “film me! film me! I want on TV!! Please!!!”

    • gina31047

      felt so sorry for kim G’s son…you could visibly tell her was so embarrassed..have some class Kim G.

    • JBJ

      LB you have the perfect point of view and the most objective comments here. I applaud you for sifting through the catty sides that crop up on the message boards as much as on the RH shows!

  • aks

    The drama can be entertaining on these shows, but so are the good times when they show them getting along and laughing, on all of the franchises, as entertaining as the drama may be, it gets old and sad, but the laughing and sharing of good times between friends, that is just as entertaining, in my opinion, I think that should be shown as well, not everything has to be so vile and dramatic, it gets old. Like bethenny and jill’s fight, or bethenny and kelly, it just gets to be too much of a headache.

    • Ana

      Well said. I like seeing them taking care of and enjoying their families. It is fun to watch a different life style from my own. They can be fun and funny at times and that is why I watch. The crazy hatefulless makes me sick. I miss Dina but I’m glad she got away from the situation with Danielle.

  • Tribunal

    I have to say, I didn’t really care when she left the show but watching last night’s episode I was happy to see her again.

    Btw great interview, only thing I don’t understand is when she mentions the DC Housewives, does she not know that there will be a Season 3 of New Jersey?

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