Teresa Giudice, the Real Housewife of New Jersey who went to prison for 11 and a half months for bankruptcy and bank fraud, is happy to talk about her time behind bars and profiting off of the book she wrote about it. But she’s not comfortable answering questions about whether she’s guilty, and fans expecting her to apologize. On Thursday morning, in a car on her way to appear on an Access Hollywood Live segment, Giudice dodged one of our questions about it, allegedly due to legal reasons. When she got to AHL, she walked off set after guest host Dave Karger asked if her husband, Joe Giudice, who is currently serving his sentence, might face deportation upon his release because he’s not an American citizen.
In Vulture’s conversation, Giudice also talked about how this season of Real Housewives of New Jersey is like Sex and the City, and why she thinks everyone should be more positive.
I was watching the premiere of RHONJ, when you finally return home and the thing I was impressed by was how great you looked showing up at the house: Your hair was straightened, you didn’t have any roots. How did you manage to look so good right when you got home?
Where I was, they had a salon. They had blow dryers and straightening irons there. If you wanted to, they had a woman who worked in the salon and she would do your hair or whoever would do hair in there. You would ask them, if they were your friend, to do your hair. You were able to buy box color at commissary, and I even used it when I came home for a few months because I was really busy and working and I didn’t have time to go to the salon. So for the first few months I was home I was still using L’Oreal box color and I was fine with it. I didn’t want to take one second from my kids.
I was picturing you in the car trying to put your makeup on, but it sounds like you were all put together before you left.
One of my friends did my hair and my other friend, my roommate, did my makeup.
It must have been an exciting ride finally getting to go home and see your daughters and Joe.
You think? Of course.
What was it like to go right from being in that situation to filming and being at work?
Because I didn’t do anything for a year, I did write my book, I kept myself busy with that and working out. But when I came home I was raring to go and I wanted to work. And the Bravo family, they are like my family, they’ve been around for a long time now.
What do you think of the new additions to the cast?
They are like the perfect fit. I know Dolores [Catania] from way back — I hung out with her in my 20s, so we totally get each other and finish each others’ sentences. We’re cut from the same cloth. Siggy [Flicke], I met her when I started filming. I didn’t know if I would be into her, but I am definitely into meeting new people and having new friends, and she was great. She said I always make her laugh and she makes me laugh.
I enjoyed this season. It wasn’t dark. In the beginning, it reminded me of Sex and the City. We lifted each other up and we were there for each other. We did what women are supposed to do, not knock each other down. Then keep watching and there are women that try to knock each other down, but it started out really good.
What do you think changed?
You’ll have to wait and see. Maybe they drank a different kind of water that day or something. I don’t know.
After everything you went through for that year, how was filming different for you? Did you learn anything while you were away or take anything into making the show?
I didn’t like the darkness with my family before, and that’s so not how our family is. There were toxic people trying to hurt our family, and I am not going to allow that to happen anymore. I came back with that mindset, and I think [my sister-in-law] Melissa [Gorga] had that same mindset, so with me and her, that fell into place easily. We both wanted the same thing. I was done. The whole fame thing, that is what ruined our family, so I’m not going to let that ruin my family again.
I was just excited to come back, and that is where my mindset was.
Do you have a different relationship to my fame now?
Well, I never let it get to me at all. It got to my family members because they’re the ones that came on the show. I don’t want to rehash all that. You know the backstory on all that. Now it’s all good with Melissa, and I’m still the same person. I’m a mom and a wife and a good friend, and that’s it.
Now that Joe is gone, how has it been working and filming and trying to manage the family on your own?
It’s a little hectic. But I’m a mom and I did it before, and I’m doing it now. This morning I went to drop my daughters off at camp. You have to juggle a million things. That’s just what moms do.
What do you miss the most about not having Joe around?
Just him not being around and hugging him and kissing him. Just hanging out and talking. I miss him. Snuggling with him. He’s just amazing. He’s a great husband and a great dad.
I read your book, and in it you said a few times that your father didn’t understand why you had to go to prison and neither did you, and you never understood why you were there. Do you understand now why you were in prison?
Of course I understand. [In the book] I take you through my whole life. In the beginning it was hard for me to understand. You go through a transition. You’re angry. You’re upset. That’s the thing — if you don’t walk a person’s path, you don’t understand it. You can only speak when you walk this path. If you haven’t walked this path, then you should keep your comments to yourself because you don’t understand it. It’s a very complicated path. It really is. And now I understand it too well.
Do you think that fans are expecting you to accept some guilt or apologize for the things you did wrong?
I’m not going to answer that. I don’t think that’s an appropriate question.
Okay, so what can we expect from the rest of the season of the Real Housewives?
Like I told you, it was great. Women empowering each other, like the way life should be. You should be picking each other up, not knocking each other down. We should live in a more positive world. Everyone should be happy for each other. Like the question you just tried to ask me, it should be more positive. We should lift each other up and be positive. When someone goes through a hard time, you should say you’re sorry. You don’t know what you’re going to go through a year from now. Nobody should judge one another. I didn’t think this would happen to me, but it did. But a lot of people come up to me and say that I inspire them and thank me. I didn’t even know that I did. We shouldn’t hurt each other. We should be there for each other. We should live in a better world. You see everything that’s happening around us, it’s very sad. I’m just happy that I have my health and my four daughters are healthy. And my husband is healthy. The rest we’ll get through.
So that’s how the season starts off, but people go through their issues. It’s a powerful season, and I think people are really going to love it. We’re going through real situations that everyone else is going through in life. Everyone is going to relate, and I hope we can inspire people going through hard times and help them get through it.
Do you think going through hard times on camera makes it even harder?
It’s really hard. You’re judged differently when it goes down on camera. You’re scrutinized more, which is unfortunate. The camera thing, when people ask me legal questions, you’re not supposed to talk about legal things. If I don’t talk about things, it’s because I’m not supposed to. You’re advised by your attorney not to talk about legal things. So it’s not like I’m trying to hide things — you just don’t speak about it.
There are certain things that make it harder, but if someone asks me a question and I don’t answer, it’s because you’re told not to speak about anything legal.
Is that what you meant by making it harder on camera?
Yeah, I meant that you’re going through a hard time, and then you have the cameras and the press and, like you said, people judging you.
They make it worse. They magnify it even more. And they make it worse for you, which they did.
This interview has been edited and condensed.