Jacqueline Laurita is best known for as starring in the hit BRAVO TV Series, The Real Housewives of New Jersey (RHONJ). She's known on the show (which is currently on hiatus until further ado, presumably until star Teresa Giudice is released from Prison ) as being the sweet, caring, kind, and compassionate one. She was the one housewife people always said they could relate too! She has gone through so much over the last five years, but she was kind enough to take time out of her busy life to chat with us and give us "the scoop" on what she has been up to since the season ended. She talks about her life as an activist and raising an Autistic son, and so much more!
How did you become a housewife on the Real Housewives of NJ? Did you know any of the ladies before filming? A scouter from the production company came to our local salon asking the owners if they knew a group of interesting, affluent Moms. They gave them my name. The production company called me and we talked for 2 1/12 hours about my life. They then came and did a video interview. I had no idea at the time it was for a housewife franchise or that I would even get picked for the reality show. I was just going with the flow. They were also talking to my sister-in-law Dina. I brought in my other sister-in-law Caroline and my friend Teresa. Dina had suggested that Danielle Staub may be a good crazy single girl they were looking for. I had not known her prior. I met her in the salon one day and asked if she would ever be willing to do a reality show. She said yes so I passed her name on to the producers. The rest is history. The cast of RHONJ had been formed. You were a part of RHONJ for 5 seasons; do you have any regrets about doing the show? Also, do you have a season that was your favorite, and why? I really don’t have any regrets doing the show. It was an interesting experience. I learned a lot about others and myself. I met a lot of interesting people. I was able to bring about awareness for autism. I got a lot of advice from others during rough patches in my life. I was able to share my journey with others and have people relate and support our family. I was able to help others. I tend to look at the positive side to things. Everything is a learning experience. It’s really hard to say which season was my favorite. Good and bad things happened in each season. I prefer to get along with my friends though, so if I went by that…season 2 was great for Teresa and I. We had a lot of fun together. Do you feel that being on the show helped you raise awareness, and help people fully understand what you were going through? Absolutely! I was thrilled to finally use my platform for something good. I received thousands of messages through the mail, email, and social media from people reaching out to thank me and give support to my family. I was able to get so much information, resources, and support from others and because of that, I was able to pass all of that on to others. We are so extremely grateful and appreciative of that. Networking opens the doors for communication and learning. (Continued below photo)
(From Left: Melissa Gorga, Jacqueline Laurita, Caroline Manzo, and Kathy Wakile at a BRAVO event for season 5! (JacquelineLaurita.com)
(Contined) I think I really stayed true to myself and was comfortable putting my life out there, faults and all. We all have them. I feel that when you are honest and open, people will relate. We all have struggles in life. Nobody has a perfect life. If you talk openly about what you are struggling with, you will find that others are going through something similar and can help you. You will have the comfort in knowing that you are not alone and that someone else understands. You can also learn a lot from others. About how long do you guys usually film for? Are your confesionals, and commentary filmed after you all wrap, or during? We usually film anywhere from 4-6 months. It tapers off the last couple of months. The first season we only filmed for 6 weeks.The individual interviews happen every couple of weeks to keep up with the true emotions of what’s going on. Every once in a while they will do on scene (on the fly) interviews. Is there any truth to the question out there that the show is in ANYWAY scripted? Former and current housewives from different cities have said this. Just interested to get your take! There is certainly no scripting on the show. However, you are put in certain situations that you wouldn’t normally put yourself in because you are required to film together with your cast members. You may be asked by producers at times to bring up certain topics to others, but whatever comes out of your mouth, and your reactions to others, are all you. If you put any 5 women in a room for an extended period of time, every day, for 4-6 months, some drama is highly likely to occur. The cameras will be waiting and they will capture it.
What was one of the BEST things that happened from filming housewives? It is absolutely being able to raise awareness for Autism and connecting with others. Have you heard from Teresa Giudice since everything has happened with her? I think it really shows what a great person you are, that you care so much for her! I reached out to Teresa several times since we stopped filming 5th season not only to work on rekindling our friendship, but to give her support as well. It was clear to me after we stopped filming that she really had no interest in having a friendship with me. I care about her and her family and I have empathy for what she and her family are going through, but I have no interest in continuing to pursue a one-sided friendship. I have to respect her boundaries. I’ve since moved on, but I don’t regret the friendship we once had. I wish her and her family well. This question is from one of my twitter followers, and is a popular question that a lot of people want to know! @ByWatergal wants to know "If you are coming back to Real Housewives?" There is talk about me coming back, but no final decisions have been made. I have to say, the break has been really great for me. It is stressful to film, but it’s funny, once I stepped away, after a while I got something like temporary amnesia and I forget why I wanted to leave so bad. It’s something I’m considering going back to. We will have to watch and see what happens.
Other than your sister in law Caroline Manzo, are you really close with any of the other housewives. If so, who and why?
You are very active, and vocal on twitter (you make it fun, even though you tweet like crazy sometimes) why do you feel it is so important to be so active on twitter, and do you feel that twitter has helped you reach a new audience? I use Twitter as a way to share information, connect with others, and to vent! I actually live a very busy life and tweeting is somewhere I can go to voice myself quickly and then duck out. Lol! It’s therapeutic for me. It’s easy to make time for it because it only takes a few seconds to tweet. I work a lot from my computer, so it’s so convenient for me. Through Twitter I have been able to network, spread Autism Awareness and give support and get support from others. It’s my happy place. I block those who bring me negativity. Your husband Chris is CEO of the company BLK Water. How is that doing? What is the purpose behind that? Blk has grown tremendously over the past few years. It’s not only in major grocery chains and specialty stores across the country but it’s also sold internationally. It’s come a long way since they started. They still have more work ahead of them, but that’s business. People are finally getting more educated on the product and realizing that it’s not a gimmick; it’s a real functioning healthy beverage. It’s full of electrolytes and over 77 trace minerals. The regular Blk is alkaline water and the original and flavors have No calories, No carbs, No sugar, and No caffeine. The water turns naturally black by the minerals and it absolutely has no taste. It tastes just like refreshing water. It’s extremely hydrating! I just love it! Many celebrities and health professionals have been spotted with it now. I’m so proud with how hard these guys have worked and how far the brand has come. Your daughter Ashlee is back at home now, how is everything with you two? I see she is really into hair and make-up. Does she want to go into that? Has she been being good to you, I hope? Yes, Ashlee is back living at home with us. We have a much better relationship now. We needed some time apart to really appreciate and understand each other. She needed to experience life “her way” for a while. We bicker from time to time but we no longer fight the way we used to. Our relationship is great. It’s better than ever. We enjoy each other very much. She went to school in California for Make-up Artistry. She is very talented. She works as a Freelance Makeup Artist now and has her own Youtube channel under Ashlee Holmes, where she reviews beauty & lifestyle products and treatments and does makeup tutorials. Check her out! She’s beautiful. She’s really come into herself. She’s all about yoga and living a healthy lifestyle, but she still knows how to have fun. She’s great! Your youngest son Nicholas was diagnosed with Autism at a very young age, for those who may not be aware, can you educate us a bit more about what autism is and how it happens? Autism is a developmental, neurobiological disorder that appears in the first 3 years of life. It affects the brain’s normal development of social and communication skills, which affect a child’s ability to interact, communicate, relate, play, imagine, and learn. They also could exhibit some self-stimulatory and repetitive behaviors as well. It could also be related to immunological, gastrointestinal, and metabolic problems. People with ASDs (AUTISM SPECTRUM DISORDERS) process and handle information in their brain differently than other people. 1 in 68 children are now diagnosed with Autism and the number is still growing. 1 in 42 boys. There are more than 1 million children affected by Autism in this country today! We still don’t know what causes Autism. As of today there is no known cure for Autism, but with early detection and the right treatments, and intervention services, the signs and symptoms of Autism can greatly improve and in some cases completely overcome.
(Jacqueline Laurita and her son Nicholas on the cover of, Inside Autism. (JacquelineLaurita.com)
How did the diagnosis affect your family? The diagnosis was devastating to our family. As a parent, it’s very painful to watch your child struggle with anything. His regression was very difficult to watch him go through. In the beginning, it was overwhelming and we felt helpless. Researching anything and everything to do with Autism was the way I coped with it. It was the one thing that I felt I had control over. I felt like I was helping by educating myself. The longer you are on this journey, the more you learn, and the more hope you have as you see their progress. Networking throughout the Autism community has helped tremendously. It’s comforting to hear the struggles and successes of others. It reminds you that you are not alone, and that there is hope and that it does get better. It may not be the journey we originally expected to have with our child, but it’s just as wonderful. It’s just different. It’s a joy and a challenge every single day. My son CJ has been such a blessing through it all. He shows his brother so much love, patience, and support through it all. Nicholas really connects with him. He’s incredible. Nicholas' regression happened while you were filming season 3 &4 of the housewives, did that make it harder? It was very difficult because at the time, we didn’t understand what was happening. We knew something was going on with our son but we weren’t sure what it was and we didn’t have a diagnosis at the time. I felt protective over his quirky side being recorded on camera. I was afraid people would pick up on it and try to diagnosis him themselves. We didn’t want to people trying to diagnosis our child and labeling him until we knew exactly what it was, had an actual diagnosis, and had a treatment plan in place. There were times the producers wanted all of our kids to play together on camera and I knew that my child didn’t play well with others. He didn’t play the same way they did. There were times that I refused to film so I could avoid exposing him. I remember a scene where Melissa and I were at Teresa’s house and all the kids were playing on a blow up waterslide. Nicholas wasn’t playing with them. Instead, he was busy going upside down or lining up rocks. I picked him up to remove him from the camera. I went on a swing with him across the yard. I must have looked unsocial, but I was actually just trying to keep Nicholas out of the scene. My heart was breaking a lot during filming. I kept a lot of what I was feeling away from the producers because I was afraid they would focus on it more. I was very depressed about it. What made you decide to share your story on public TV? Do you feel it has helped educate people, and made parents feel better about their situation? Once Nicholas had an actual diagnosis and we knew exactly what it was, I was open to sharing it publicly, because now I could talk about it. I understood it. Viewers didn’t have to speculate what was going on with Nicholas, or try to diagnosis our child. His disorder had a name. I wasn’t ashamed of the diagnosis and I didn’t want my son to ever be ashamed of it either. It’s just one small piece of who he is. My husband and I agreed it was important to share our journey with others to bring awareness to it, and to remind others they are not alone. It helped our family tremendously with the overwhelming amount of support we received from others. It inspired us to give back as much as possible. We had always been open with our struggles and successes on the show and this was no different. It wasn’t our “Storyline”, it was our “lives” that we lived everyday. We like to keep it real. I think it’s what makes us so relatable. You do a lot with Autism Speaks, and you are also a big advocate for finding a cure and raising awareness. Can you tell us more about Autism Speaks, and any other charities/foundations you are involved with? I am very involved with a lot of Autism organizations. Autism Speaks, Generation Rescue, Autism Hope Alliance, National Autism Association, TACA Foundation, Autism One, the list goes on and on. I do what I can, when I can. Some people get really particular about which charities they support. I think they all have a good mission and are all contributing something positive to the Autism community. I’m team whoever is trying to do something for the greater good. How is Nicholas now? Has he been improving? Nicholas now has a very extensive vocabulary. He can label pretty much anything verbally. He can request all his needs verbally in an “I Want…” sentence. His eye contact and engagement with others has significantly improved. He can answer specific questions but he is still not conversational yet. I believe its coming. He has been attempting to initiate conversations lately. He brushes his own teeth. He can dress himself. He rides a bike with training wheels. He can eat with utensils again. He can read and spell very well. He Googles things all the time. He loves Youtube. His memory is incredible. He is also starting to learn how to write. He has come a long way. I can’t wait to see what next year brings and the year after that. He amazes me all the time.
Often times children with Autism excel in one area of something. Does Nicholas show strengths in one area in particular that you think he will shine in come the near future? What advice can you give to parents of children with autism? What are the signs they should look for to know if their child has it or not?
Do you have a book in the works? I actually have 2 books in the works. One is a Beauty, Style and wellness book that I am writing with my friend, Fashion & Style expert, and author of “The Bra Book”, Jene Luciani. It’s called, “Get IT! The Busy Girls Guide To Getting Your “IT” Together. A Beauty, Style, and Wellness Guide.” We are also creating a website to go with it called www.GetItBook.com The other book I am writing is with my husband, Chris, about our journey with Autism called, “Defy Expectations”. Both books should be out by next year. Look for updates on those books or anything else about me on my website www.JacquelineLaurita.com What is next for Jacqueline Laurita? I have always had a passion for the Beauty Industry. I’ve also been a licensed Cosmetologist for over 20 years. I decided to use my experience, knowledge and passion and share it with others. I have been working on launching a Beauty, Style and Wellness ecommerce website for the past few years. My life has taken a few turns with other priorities and obligations that have set me back here and there, but my team and I are still in the process of putting it together and we should have it up and running before the end of the year. It was originally going to be called; “Altruistic Beauty” but I changed the name to “TheLookOver.com” I have also been working on an all-natural skincare line with unique ingredients that are pretty amazing. I hope to launch a few key pieces of that later this year as well. We are getting ready to film the 2nd season of “Manzo’d With Children” where I have a part time role like last season. I’m very excited to be working with family and it is so much fun. I’m looking forward to it. We will just have to watch and see what happens with RHONJ. I just don’t know and can’t confirm anything at this time.Despite my tremendous fear of public speaking, I continue to do keynote speeches at Autism conferences, autism-related events, colleges, high schools, benefits and fundraisers to raise awareness for Autism. Finish this sentence: Jacqueline Laurita is... J- Jokester A- Autism Advocate C- Cosmetologist Q- Quirky U- Understanding E- Empathetic L- Loving I- Intelligent N- Nurturer E- Empowering L- Lifestyle expert A- Author U- Understanding R- Relatable Reality TV Personality I- Inspiring ( Inspirational speaker) T- Talkative A- Authority To learn more about Jacqueline, please visit her website www.JacquelineLaurita.com