Teresa Giudice on Post-Prison Life and The Real Housewives of New Jersey's New Season
Think 11 months in a federal penitentiary might’ve turned this outspoken Garden State gal into a shrinking violet? Fuhgeddaboudit! Teresa Giudice—fresh off a stint doing time for her mail, wire and bank fraud conviction—is back on The Real Housewives of New Jersey, and as usual, the reality-TV vet isn’t taking any prisoners. (Her Season 7 castmates: bestie turned adversary Jacqueline Laurita, sister-in-law Melissa Gorga and newcomers Dolores Catania and Siggy Flicker.)
Still, the 44-year-old mom of four, whose husband, Joe, began serving his 41-month sentence for related charges in March, insists her notorious temper has been rehabilitated. Here, Teresa opens up about lessons learned and the grudge that’s too big to be kept under lock and key.
The premiere documents the day you came home from the Danbury Correctional Institution. How did that feel?
Like a dream! Leading up to it, I wasn’t letting myself get too excited. I’d tell my girlfriends in there, “I’ll be happy when I walk through my front door.”
So you made pals?
Oh, yes. I kept saying, “I can’t be the only good person in here! There are other good women.” It was bittersweet leaving them behind.
Netflix’s Orange Is the New Black is based on your prison. Is it accurate?
I’ve never watched, but a lot of the girls said it was pretty much the same. As for whether it’s a cushy “country club prison”? I was away from my daughters [Gia, 14, Gabriella, 11, Milania, 10, and Audriana, 6], so I didn’t consider that cushy at all.
Did any fellow inmates know you from RHONJ?
I did have fans, but I didn’t talk about the show much. I kept my guard up. There were a lot of snakes—people selling stories about me that weren’t true. One girl smuggled a phone in to try to get my picture.
Immediately following your release, you had to wear a tracking device and weren’t able to travel freely or drink wine. Are there any other ongoing conditions of your parole—like no physical altercations allowed?
I would be so dumb to do something like that, let alone have it shown on TV. Remember table-flipping Teresa from Season 1? I am so not that person anymore. I’ve calmed down tremendously. I don’t know if it’s because I’ve started doing yoga—or everything I’ve been through—but I’ve grown.
Does that mean you’ve become immune to the drama?
You do get sucked back in a little. There are hurt feelings, but now I try to just walk away.
There’s been chatter about why your fellow Housewives weren’t on your prison visitation list…
Well, I was only allowed a limited amount of people. To add a person, you have to take someone off. Jacqueline didn’t try—she didn’t even fill out a visiting form. Melissa did, but my list was full at the time, and we weren’t in the greatest place before I left. I wanted people who I felt like were there for me.
Do you believe any of your costars overplayed their sympathy for your plight?
Several people weren’t being genuine—their sympathy was only for TV land, and there was nothing from them in real life. Jacqueline was so fake.
Have you and Melissa mended fences?
Family is family. I’m old-school. We picked up where we left off before Housewives and fame came along.
We did reconnect, which was great—and then she got ugly, and that made us disconnect. Some people hit below the belt. I’d always heard she had that side. Now I’ve seen it for myself.
What’s your opinion of newbies Dolores and Siggy?
I go way back with Dolores. We’ve known each other since our twenties. I used to stay at her Shore house! I met Siggy through the show, and we clicked. She’s my kind of gal. They’re both friends with Jacqueline too, so it’s very interesting how that plays out.
Was Joe’s imminent departure constantly on your mind during filming?
All the time. Between when I got home and he left, we tried to make those three months count. But it broke my heart having to prepare my girls for it. God willing, this will make them stronger. They’ve had to grow up quicker than normal kids. No family is perfect—everyone is going through something, and we’re going through this.
The Real Housewives of New Jersey, Season Premiere, Sunday, July 10, 8/7c, Bravo.