We were able to catch up with The Real Housewives Of New Jersey newcomer Kathy Wakile and find out why she decided to join the cah-razy world of Bravo. Wakile is old-school when it comes to dealing with family drama and aims to connect to viewers through her personal stories. We asked Wakile everything from why she has a contract with her kids to what it was really like to have a sit-down with Caroline Manzo. And we gotta say, folks. We really like this Jersey girl.
Wakile also shared some pictures from her family albums AND her children’s contracts dating back a few years. My favorite part of our conversation was how adamant Kathy is about instilling some good old-fashioned values in her teenagers-especially son, Joseph (“Being a gentleman never goes out of style,” she told me).
Check out our interview with Wakile after the jump.
SL: Were you born and raised in New Jersey?
KW: Yes, I was born and raised in Jersey, not really far from where I live now.
SL: What were your thoughts on the ‘Housewives’ franchise prior to joining?
KW: Well, the first season was really just about getting to know the ladies and who they were. It was very light-hearted and fun; Lots of shopping and day spas and all of that kind of stuff. Then our economy took a deep plunge. The ladies realized that since viewers knew who they were already, it was time to start showing more of their relationships and how they all fit into one another’s lives. During that time, I started learning more about their families. I did know each of the ladies except for Danielle [Staub] prior to joining the cast. I’ve know the Manzos for a long time, especially the men because I’ve dealt with the Brownstone for years.
When it (the show) started to get a little bit into Danielle’s issues and the way their relationships changed with her, things got a little too dark for me. It wasn’t really much fun to watch. I am the type of person that looks at both sides of a situation, so I felt bad for Danielle. Whether she was a broken person or whatever the case may be…I’m sure there was a lot of stuff going on behind the scenes that I had no idea about, and the viewers had no idea about, but you still felt bad because she had two young daughters. Even though that’s the life she chose to live, she still had two kids who were born into this and they were going to be a product of their environment as well.
SL: Did you have any reservations about joining the cast?
KW: I did, because I thought any little hiccup you may have in your life is going to be totally scrutinized, and every one of my experiences is going to be under the magnifying glass. I had to keep in mind I have two teenagers in high school, and they’re the ones I am most concerned about. So, I took that into consideration quite a bit because I didn’t want our relationship with our children, their relationship with one another, or their life to be completely effected. We talked about it over and over again as a family; this wasn’t something that we thought about overnight. I deliberated with my husband, Rich and my kids – Victoria, 17, and Joseph, 15 – for many, many months and finally came to a decision. What happened was that they (the production company) didn’t cast me yet and it was all still up in the air, but the whole time you are processing it in your head. I would have nightly discussions with my kids and try to go through every worst-case scenario possible and let them think about it. ‘Don’t answer it now,’ I’d tell them. ‘How would you respond to this, how do you see your life changing, for the good or for the bad?’ We really wanted to hear what they had to say. For the most part they answered very,very responsibly and they made my husband and I confident enough to feel that we could go forth, and we continue to have these discussions.
This past Sunday was a day I just said, ‘Ok we need a family day. Let’s get in the car.’ I find that the kids are the best captive audience when we are in the car. They are forced to be in the car and they aren’t going anywhere (laughs). When I say forced, it’s not like I have to “force” them-they are very open. It’s a good way to get in one place without the phone ringing to discuss things. No question is too big, no question is too embarrassing, no question is too small. Just ask away. We want to hear what you are thinking, we continue to do that.
SL: How seriously do the kids take the contracts you ask them to draw up regarding discipline?
KW: They take it very seriously. Obviously we aren’t going to enforce legally, but they do take it seriously. We wanted to start a dialogue, so it’s a way for us to continually readdress our expectations in them and readdress their commitment to living healthy, productive lifestyles. We post them in their rooms. Even if they don’t look at them everyday, they know that it’s on their walls, they see it and their subconscious sees it. We can always go back to it: ‘Ok you signed your name, this is a lesson, you need to know that contracts are binding and that there are repercussions for breaking contracts. You will have to pay the penalty, whether it be outside in the business world, in your school or in your family life, this is what we expect from you and this is what you have agreed to.’ Now they know what the punishment will be and we are going to have to agree with that accordingly. You have to stay firm as parents and follow through with that punishment as well.
A much as you don’t want to rule with an iron fist, sometimes you just have to. As far as my son goes, I tell him all the time, ‘being a gentleman never goes out of style.’ You can be whatever you want to be on the playground with your buddies, but when you are addressing a young lady or addressing someone that is older than you, you speak like a gentleman.
SL: How does Teresa’s fight with Melissa and Joe affect the rest of the family?
KW: Well obviously when you are witness to something like that and you have a connection to everyone involved, you have an opinion. It does look like you are taking sides at one point or another, and you feel for everyone. But if you understand what lit the match and where the fire started and you understand why it ignited, you kind of get pushed into the middle. It’s very hard to take an unbiased stance. It’s very hard when it (drama) does come up to not show that you are leaning one way towards another, and even though it doesn’t maybe directly affect you, it does ultimately affect you because you do love each and every one of them. The ongoing goal is for them (Teresa and Joe) to be at piece and to have a great relationship. You think about where you fit into their big equation as well. You want to be able to be with everyone and celebrate your love and your relationships together, but when there is that kind of tension, you automatically are looked at that you are taking a side or that you have an opinion. In my case. If I go up to Theresa and I say, ‘Well, Melissa did this, this, and this that was wrong,’ or she tells her hairstylist the story and I agree with her, and then when I sit with Melissa’s side of the story I agree with her, and then Joe’s side of the story…then what am I looking like? Does it look like I am two-faced? Or does it look like I am just trying to diffuse it? If I give my opinion too much then I am sticking my nose where it doesn’t belong. If I don’t give it, then I am just being wishy-washy. It’s very hard sometimes because you love both parties. You don’t want to take a firm stance, but you also feel what’s right is right and what’s wrong is wrong.
SL: How did you hope that meeting with Caroline would go?
KW: Honestly, when I went to speak to Caroline, it wasn’t to apologize for having a conversation with my cousin, Teresa at the Brownstone. I felt, and still do, that I had every right to speak to my cousin. I did it privately, and I can’t be responsible for the way she reacted. I was not trying to be hurtful but she brought up why I left. I told her I wanted to get my kids away from the fighting, to which she said, ‘Well your kids are older.’ Don’t assume to know what’s good for my kids, I don’t assume to know what’s good for your kids. BUT, if you are bringing up the kids, then I wasn’t only worried about my kids, but I was worried about yours as well.
Then Teresa got very defensive and it wasn’t intended in that way. I would have stuck up for myself – I have every right to stand up for myself – but I did not raise my voice once. I did not stick my finger in her face like she did me. I did not invade her space, and then she carried it into the other room and got her mother involved. At that point I said nothing, I didn’t say a thing because I didn’t want it to escalate. So when Caroline reacted in that way, I was taken aback because I was just getting to know these ladies on a more personal level. I just wanted to clear the air with her and let her know that wasn’t my intention to go there. Listen, I can’t be responsible for the way your friend acted. I brought flowers in mind because that’s the way we do things. I was going to her house for the first time, It wasn’t a peace offering. It was a hospitality gift. Caroline was confused, and I get where she is coming from. Maybe she was thinking ‘Why isn’t she having this conversation with Teresa?’ She didn’t know that I have had many conversations with Teresa and I did try to speak with my aunt and uncle and tried to clear the air. That all happened off-camera and that’s private family business, so I didn’t feel the need to even address that with Caroline.
I didn’t go there to explain my side of the story or to fill her in on details that were going on. It’s not her business what happened at the christening and I didn’t want to involve her. But, you know, there are a lot of things that did happen on camera and obviously you can’t see it all because you have to condense an episode into less than 60 minutes, so I did get a lot of reaction. Why was I talking to Caroline? I am not a trouble maker, I don’t try to cause problems, I really don’t like confrontations one bit. I try to choose my words very carefully and delicately as I can. If people took it that way, well, they have a right to their opinion. Opinions are free. Hopefully as the season progresses, opinions will change and they (viewers) will see how I really am.