Kathy Wakile is keeping it real. The star of Bravo’s Real Housewives of New Jersey spoke exclusively with us about family, reinventing herself, and how she lives her life — deliciously.
This is your third season on Real Housewives of New Jersey. How has it been?
It’s been good. Again, it’s very emotional. It hurts to see your loved ones hurting and it hurts to dig down deep and realize that you’re making mistakes, too. It’s been a big awakening.
Yes, this season has been a real emotional rollercoaster.
Of course, it’s always hard when there are family issues. You have history together; you known each other’s idiosyncrasies and what’s going to hurt the most. But something had to give. We hit rock bottom and now we have to build it back. You have to clean the slate and build it brick by brick. We started by building it with trust and laughter and then you begin remembering good times. Before you know it, you’re creating new good times.
Now how did you become involved with the show?
Bravo found me and asked me to be involved. I was under the impression they didn’t know that Teresa [Giudice] and I were even related. I never sought this; I wasn’t sure I was even going to do it. The interview process is so long, but they kept coming back to me. After my family and I talked about it, we decided to do it. It was then that I planned to tell Teresa, but unfortunately she found out before I had a chance to tell her.
As we were shooting, we kept talking about reinvention, which seems to be a strong theme in your life.
I think what happens with women especially is that we constantly change. We change with the people we meet and how we evolve. As a girl, you are Daddy’s Little Girl, and then you enter the business world and try to find a new identity. Then you try to find the person you’re going to be with, and then adapt. You adapt again after you become a mother. Who you were before is out the window; you grow and try to preserve your relationship with your spouse, but you change and your kids grow. The hardest adaptation is when your kids don’t need you as much. That’s the hardest challenge I’ve faced.
We’ve seen that on the show.
I still struggle with it. I want to be wanted. As mothers, we become caretakers—we’re the accountant, the nurse, the psychiatrist, the chauffeur and we love doing all of it. But if you didn’t preserve that relationship with your spouse, your kids grow and are independent, and then who are you now? You reach your 40s and what have you been doing all this time? The smart ones who have been keeping their relationship together find that new next season and it’s wonderful. You start to look into yourself more. You think, “I’m done being Mommy, but I still have more to give.”
You’ve reinvented yourself into a gourmet goddess.[laughs] I was a hairdresser for years, but when I became a stay at home mom, that’s when I started making cakes. You see where the need is; I didn’t want to spend $300 on a cake. I realized that I could do it myself. It became a great passion for me because I wanted to make everything really pretty. Everyone said that I was good at it, and why not make your hobby something that your family could benefit from? My husband, Richie, is now my business partner. He thinks in dollars and cents and I think aesthetically about how pretty it’s going to look. But like anything, as soon as you find your balance, any little thing can throw it off.
We’ve seen you trying to reestablish your relationship with Richie on the show, too.
Your husband is used to you being a certain way and wants to know why you’re changing. But the thing is that this is what you need now. As partners, you have to understand that with each other; at different points in your life, you’re going to need to fulfill different goals and you need to compromise. For so many years, I was the foundation of the home and he did everything else. I was fulfilling my dream; a dream that I didn’t realize that I had.
But sometimes I step back and I ask, “How did all this happen to me? How did I get this push to do a dessert business?” And to be honest, it was the viewers. They will pick out things and point it out to you. I was a mom and I loved to bake; it happened organically. It was who I am. I never went on the show thinking, “I’m going to be the best next baker.” It doesn’t work like that. If you have that goal and it’s not authentic, the viewers are smart and they’ll call you out on it. They motivated me and inspired me to do. It’s empowering to know that you have these talents and people recognize it.
And one of your big talents is with cannolis![laughs] If you live in the northeast, you have access to great cannolis. And the best way for a cannoli to be eaten is freshly filled; the shells are crunchy and the filling is creamy and cold. But if it’s been filled for a few hours, the shell gets mushy, the cream is not as cold. It loses its integrity. My Dolci Della Dea Cannoli Kit is a way for people in their homes to have cannolis on demand.
It’s a way for every woman to feel like a goddess in her own kitchen because you should. Everybody should be the goddess of sweetness in her kitchen. I want to make it easy and for people to see that it’s not that difficult. If you mess up, so what? You can do it all over again and you get a second chance to make it all better.
And that’s a message for life, too.
Absolutely! Tomorrow’s another day. Get a good night’s sleep and tomorrow’s another day to make it right.
I had one and, being part Italian, I have to say it’s divine.
I don’t cut down on sugar or fat. I make them the way they’re supposed to be made. You want a decadent, delicious and indulgent dessert. That’s why the cannolis are small; it satisfies the sweet tooth. The freshest and finest ingredients at their peak is all you need. It’s a much better way to live a balanced life. You don’t want to feel deprived. You keep looking for a way to be satisfied, and you wind up eating empty calories, which don’t do it.
You’re totally right. If you eat something delicious, you don’t need to eat a lot of it. Which leads us to your upcoming book, Indulge.
It’s taken from one of my lines on the show. “Indulge, honey. Sometimes I see these skinny girls and I think they’re not happy. Have a cupcake, honey. It’s not going to kill you. Indulge.” [laughs] There are 75 recipes that are minis and little tasting desserts. My manuscript is due in October so the book will probably
be out early next year. It’s been so much fun because I love to do this and I love to cook by seasons. The book will be broken up by seasons because that’s
how real cooks cook. You go to the store and you’re inspired by what you see. You go apple picking and you want to make a pie. In the summer, you’re thinking
berries and gelato.
But a cannoli is year-round.[laughs] Of course! A cannoli is good anytime.
So Kathy, how are you balancing it all?
Life is constantly changing. You have to learn that balance as a mom. You have to learn how to juggle. I have a great hubby who supports me all the time. He keeps things light and funny so I don’t take things too seriously. He’s been that way since the day I met him. He’s got quick wit, and sometimes in the most serious situations, he always found a way to make me laugh. My kids have picked up that sense of humor; they don’t sweat the small stuff. It’s a team effort and we’re a team. If you all want to win together, you have to fight together. Every once in a while we get off balance but that’s good too. It makes us step back and see what’s wrong.
But overall, everything is wonderful. The Real Housewives of New Jersey has allowed many, many good things to happen. It’s brought awareness to things that are important to me, like brain tumor awareness. My daughter Victoria had a brain tumor when she was 10 years-old, and since then I’ve become involved in different organizations like The National Brain Tumor Society and the Children’s Brain Tumor Foundation. We’ve raised a lot of money and awareness. It’s sharing little tidbits of your life and people are very receptive to it. In one way or another, they relate to you and it touches their lives. They see that we’re not perfect, and we don’t live a perfect life. But for me, my family is my perfect.