"I'm not upset about it anymore. I was sad about it in the beginning, but I didn't personally fully understand it. But a lot of times, you don't," the reality star tells ET, Zooming in from Blue Stone Manor, her estate in the Berkshires. Dorinda announced last August that she was departing RHONY, the network and production company's choice, not hers.
"The thing that was interesting was the timing," Dorinda remarks. "I think it was upsetting to people."
Typically cast changes come after a season finishes airing, but the season 12 reunion episodes had yet to run when Dorinda’s "pause" -- not firing -- became public knowledge. Viewers were left feeling like they were watching a ghost, a Housewife who was no longer a Housewife, yet still on Housewives.
"People have done much worse than me on the show and had the sort of resurrection moment and come back," Dorinda notes. "People have had horrible seasons and the resurrection season. We could name them off within my cast and many others."
Dorinda's greatest crime was simply being in a funk, an arguably depressive state that had her acting out in ways that translated as "mean" on screen. Co-star Tinsley Mortimer repeatedly found herself at the other end of Dorinda's outbursts, though rarely with a clear explanation. It turns out, it was largely misplaced anger.
"I was under the impression that because of the year that I had and the flood [at Blue Stone Manor] and the house coming back and the renovation and the breaking up with [longtime boyfriend John Mahdessian], I thought the next year would be sort of the reset," she continues, referencing the dramatic events that colored what would be her final season on the show.
"I thought I was planning this whole thing for a lot of the COVID activities to happen at Blue Stone Manner, which Blue Stone Manner, to me, had become such a character on the show, right?" Dorinda asks, saying she was gearing up to film season 13 when she got the call that she wasn’t being asked back.
"I was like, wow. They're kind of getting rid of me and Blue Stone Manner and sort of the whole… but you know, I think that in the long run it opened up a lot of opportunities," she says.
"I think I was exhausted, because I had had that million dollars worth of damage, breaking up with John," she reiterates. "We were in COVID, so I wouldn't have been able to really be close to my parents during that time, and I would not have been able to write this book. Or I would have written a book that was sh**ty."
That book is Dorinda’s new memoir, a perfect beach read titled Make It Nice, after one of her many catchphrases (AKA "Dorinda-isms") from her time on RHONY: "I cooked, I decorated, I made it nice!" (from season 9, episode 9).
The collection of essays fills in the gaps in Dorinda's story that Real Housewives never got the chance to show. Fans will get to know Dorinda Cinkala, the young girl who dreamed of breaking out of Western Massachusetts and tackling the fashion world; Dorinda Lynch, the young wife who lived out that fashion dream before becoming a mom and, later, a divorcee in London; Dorinda Medley, the real estate agent turned socialite, whose word was rocked by death; and finally, simply Dorinda, the woman who embodies all those past versions of herself.
Dorinda starts where RHONY left off, with her "pause," and then flashes back to her humble beginnings and works her way forward, back to the pause. She says her life always seems to reset itself every six years, and her chapter as a Housewife is no different. She lasted six seasons.
"I don't think you ever fully close last chapters, because you keep on carrying on lessons from each chapter you're in," she offers up when asked if the book feels like the end to or the beginning of the next six-year cycle of her life. "Definitely, there's a beginning. There is something going on for me right now where just all things have come together. … I feel stronger."
By putting her life story to paper, Dorinda says she realized just how strong she’s been her whole life. There's been a thread of authentic fearlessness running through her ever since she was a young kid. Still, some memories proved harder to revisit than others. She specifically references getting candid about her eating disorder as a teen (a chapter she almost cut from the book, in fear of opening a "Pandora's Box" of conversation around the topic) and the death of her second husband, Richard Medley.
"What was interesting when I had to write about Richard was that, by the time [RHONY viewers] met me as an audience, he had already passed, obviously, for a while," she says. "It's his 10-year anniversary this year, can you imagine? It's wacky. I don't even know if Richard would know me, you know what I mean? I've got such a different life. I would love to have a cocktail with him and tell him about me today. Wouldn't that be great?"
Dorinda said her memories with her late husband are the polished kind, with the best bits at the forefront. The days leading up to his death, visions of hospital rooms and life-threatening bleeds, are pushed back into the dark corners of her head.
"I had restored him in my mind," she explains. "Time always allows you to restore them to who you remember them as, and I think that's pretty much what I presented to the audience. I felt like that was the hardest part and kind of the bravest part, and I wasn't sure how people would perceive it. And I didn't want to hurt his children and I didn't want to hurt [my daughter] Hannah and I didn't want to say too much but I wanted to be honest. It’s a very fine line."
"I was very sad and lonely and scared and every emotion," Dorinda adds of that time in her life. "And my mother said, 'You know, if God came to you and said, I'm going to give you this guy for… -- I knew him for eight years total, married six -- ...he’s going to come when your daughter's like 10, 11. He's going to leave at 18. But you are going to love him. He's going to provide a beautiful life. You're going to see things, your daughter's going to have a wonderful stepfather, and then he's going to have to leave at 18.' Would you take him?’ And I said, yeah. She goes, 'Well, that's what you got. So now we have to be appreciative for that, Dorinda, because your daughter was able to have two fathers.'"
"Even Ralph loved Richard so much," she says, mentioning her first husband (and father of Hannah), Ralph Lynch. "I remember Ralph said one of the most beautiful things to Richard days before he passed. He said, 'I want you to know, Richard, I promise you the day our daughter gets married, I'll be on one side and you'll be on the other.'"
Dorinda says Hannah, a literary scholar, helped pull out those stories and focus the direction of the book, which rests on the theme of following one’s intuition.
"When I don't follow my intuition, when I don't follow that feeling like this is right, and I go against that grain, it always fails for me," Dorinda proclaims. One instance of that was not pursuing Housewives the first time it came around. While no official offer was made, Dorinda was on the producers' radar early in the show’s run, as she was in the cast’s social circle. Eagle-eyed viewers often catch glimpses of Dorinda while rewatching the show, spotting her in the background of charity events and parties featured on the show before she joined as an official cast member in season 7.
"People don't realize, that don't live in New York, that the Upper East Side is just a big fishbowl," Dorinda says. "It was going around everywhere that the show was coming out. I was always sort of someone in the mix, just like a lot of the girls, because we all knew each other. I think that's one of the reasons why it worked so easily for me. Because you always saw me in the back. I was in the background of a lot of the shows."
"But you know, Hannah was [in school], I was a single mom," she adds, "and I have said this a million times, anyone that says anything about Housewives, it takes some very brave women to put themselves out there like that. Remember, we put ourselves out there for you, the world, to do whatever you want with. And if we're too honest, you're upset. If we're too secretive, you're upset. If we smudge the truth a little bit, you expose us. So it takes a really brave person to go out there."
Richard encouraged Dorinda to do the show when it first came her way, so when the official offer came after his death, she viewed it as if he had sent it to her, to launch her into a next chapter. That chapter may get some new pages if fans get their way and Bravo presses play on that "pause." Week after week, RHONY watchers call for Dorinda's return as they watch a pared-down cast navigate a pandemic world in the wake of a racial reckoning. The 56-year-old said no conversations have been had yet, though (and this interview was conducted before unconfirmed rumors started circulating that Dorinda would front an "all-stars" spinoff for Peacock).
"You never say never, right?" Dorinda says when pressed on if she'd accept an apple again. "I'm always open to opportunities. I think this season's not over yet. The season needs to end and settle, and then who knows what's going to happen over the next three, four months."
Dorinda would want to walk back into a lineup that combined old and new cast members. She's continued to watch the show, though, and other cities in the franchise after her departure from it.
"I think it was a tough season to be on," she says of season 13. "But it's always going to be like-- you know when you first got out of college, and you're out of college and you're doing great at your job, but then someone says, ‘Oh my god, I'll call you after spring break?’ And you're like, I miss spring break! I'm not going to be that person that's like, 'No, no. I made plans…' Of course you always have those moments, because there's incredible camaraderie. I did it for six years. Again, I think the thing that really was very fortuitous for me is that it was COVID."
"I don't know why Ramona would say that," Dorinda says in reaction. "Maybe she's afraid I'm going to come back."
"Ramona doesn't know me anymore," she adds. "Ramona hasn't contacted me at all, and I think if she's saying things like that, it's more out of fear than it is out of anything honest. We just don't talk. I think she has her own stuff to worry about."
"We had a great text exchange, and that's that," Dorinda shares. "There isn't a Housewife that comes out of a season that doesn't have regret."
Dorinda gets candid in Make It Nice about navigating life as a reality TV personality, how you find yourself making bigger decisions, bigger choices, because your life is amplified to the world. It's all subconscious.
"I feel very bad for what happened with Tinsley, because I could see the writing on the wall. I should have communicated it differently. But I think too much had gone on for me," she continues. "I was in too much of a vulnerable place, too much of a tired place, that I just didn't know how to communicate it well. … I could have communicated better."
"My mother always said this," Dorinda adds, sharing one of many lessons from her mom, Diane, that pepper her book. "Everybody has to be on the cross at some point … and I really felt like a couple people that I thought would be helpful and supportive during that time weren't. And I was really struggling last year."
Dorinda is moving forward, putting the past in her rearview and taking the lessons she learned along the way with her as she stares out the windshield forward. She's soon to launch a Blue Stone Manor-themed bourbon, is open to dating again and gearing up for a book tour. While she's away, her mansion is available for two one-night stays through Airbnb, a slumber party meets Graceland-style experience where guests can explore parts of the home made famous by Bravo.
"They're not going to be in my bedroom, there's certain limitations," she notes. "[But] you're worried about people coming here for a short overnight stay when I've allowed the Housewives to come here for six years? Think about that."
Make It Nice is available wherever you find books, and available as an audiobook read by the author.