'The Real Housewives of New Jersey' star holds nothing back while talking season 11, fighting back against attacks on her authenticity.
Tables have been flipped, sprinkle cookies tossed out, glasses smashed, cakes launched into the air, but never has cheese gone flying on The Real Housewives of New Jersey… until now. Melissa Gorga ushers in that iconic act in a moment of frustration set to play out on Wednesday’s all-new episode, as she and her husband, Joe Gorga, face off with Joe’s sister, Teresa Giudice, during a trip down to the Jersey Shore.
"I'm not really an aggressive one, but I just wanted to throw something," Melissa recalls while chatting with ET over video chat. "Not at anyone, because I had made a pact that I wouldn't throw anything at anyone, but I needed to get it out for a second. It was sitting there and I don't know what happened."
Melissa grabs the cheese tray to make a point to Teresa, after she goes in on Melissa and Joe for not sticking up for her after co-star Jackie Goldschneider made a crack about Teresa’s time incarcerated (a comment which Melissa says she was "shocked" by, as it continued Teresa and Jackie’s back and forth of one-upping each other’s wrong moves).
"Wait a second, what are you going to say now?" Melissa exclaims just before picking up the tray of cheese. "That I should’ve stuck up for you when she said you should be in jail? Really? All of a sudden you’re a weak b***h who can’t defend herself? Because you just f**king stuck up for your ex-husband when we were defending you. What the f**k is wrong with you? You’re a sick f**king b***h. I defended you too many times. Defend us against your ex-husband."
The argument is complicated by what Melissa sees as a double standard: Teresa always wants her brother and sister-in-law to defend her, no matter what, but when their names are under attack, Teresa doesn’t repay the favor -- especially when her ex-husband, Joe Giudice, is involved. Melissa and Joe are upset that Teresa continually defends her ex as having “done the right thing” by her, while they blame him for disrupting Teresa’s life (Joe goes as far as to blame his ex-brother-in-law for his and Teresa’s parents’ deaths). He also regularly goes after Joe and Melissa in clickbait articles online.
"I'm happy to help him make money, I really am," Melissa scoffs. "Link in bio. I am his clickbait. ‘Screw Melissa, I hate…’ … you'll see on this episode, [Teresa’s] like, ‘Take his name out of your mouths.’ Really? Because I don't care -- ever -- to bring him up, believe me that. So it just gets very one-sided and Joe gets very insulted, which I have to agree with him. Not because he's my husband. When he's wrong, I tell him he's wrong. But I feel his pain."
"I'm like, what did we ever do anything that you really liked?" Melissa asks, reflecting on the last decade of battling it out with Teresa on TV. Melissa says even when she and Joe feel like they’re working in Teresa’s favor, she still takes issue with it.
"Even when we're backing you up, and we're taking your side -- ‘You were the best and you deserve better’ -- we're still saying it wrong," she notes, referencing Teresa’s anger any time someone disparages her ex.
"It's that situation where, you're damned if you do, damned if you don't," she adds. "Joe Giudice and Joe, obviously those guys have never really gotten along from way before I was in the picture, and it's like, look, Joe is in whatever he is, and they still are. It's just not a good mix. I don't know."
Some cast members have teased the altercation as being at the level of Melissa’s son’s christening from season 3 or the family retreat from season 5, but Melissa doesn’t see it that way.
"The christening?! Does anything compare to... I mean, no," she says. "To me, absolutely not. My son's christening was a fiasco. It was like an episode of The Godfather or something. I don't know what we were watching at that time, but no, I wouldn't say that. But I would say it will remind you of that deep hurt that the family used to feel. It will give you that old vibe of like, wow, these people used to really hurt over these situations, and you bring it back for two seconds and you can see it still runs deep."
"I have the chills right now just talking, because it really hurts," she continues. "It runs deep, that situation."
While episodes like this one give Melissa anxiety, she says she’s learned to embrace the unease and face problems head on rather than run away from them. It’s advice she wishes she could pass on to her co-stars.
"If I could teach anything to the new girls, it's like, just say what you want to say no matter what," she shares. "I even get frustrated at [Margaret Josephs] at this dinner .... because it's like no, yell, point your anger in the right direction, don't be scared, speak your mind and point your anger in the right direction."
Tensions were high at the shoreside dinner for a number of reasons, all connected back to Teresa and Jackie’s ongoing feud. Margaret got upset when Jennifer Aydin revealed that Margaret's husband, Joe Benigno, told the men of the group that he had also heard the rumors Teresa repeated about Jackie’s husband, Evan, cheating on her around town. Margaret unleashed on Jennifer, and later Joe himself, when Melissa says that anger should’ve been pointed at Teresa, who brought the drama into their lives in the first place. While the Jackie-Teresa saga seems soon to conclude, Melissa hints that the resolution might not be so satisfying.
"I don't know, is there a resolution for someone's complete personality?" she asks. "No."
Melissa's come to terms with Teresa being Teresa, partially because she has to for the sake of her family. On an earlier episode this season, Melissa remarked how rational argument simply doesn’t work with her sister-in-law, a comment that Melissa says Teresa was not surprised to hear.
"I think she knows it's true," she surmises. "She's not the easiest person to go back and forth with .... but sometimes you got to ‘yes’ her to make it end, and I'm not saying that that's right, or that's fair."
"If I were a friend, or if I were Jackie, I get why they kind of battle it out because they have no reason to just say, all right, I'm going to just let what you said blow off my shoulder," she continues. "They don't feel that way. Where I'm a little bit more lenient because of my children and everyone, and listen, Teresa and I, we have an understanding now. We know each other, she knows how far she can go with me, where before, I think she used to push me more. She doesn't do that anymore. She knows where I'm going to, like, explode, and she's learned me and I've learned her, and I think that we figured that out."
"It's just one of those things, and I think it's relatable to a lot of sister-in-laws," she adds, "and I'm OK with Melissa and Teresa, and what we are and what we're not."
Family first is definitely the mantra for the Gorgas, though Melissa’s nuclear family is taking a bit of a hit in the second half of RHONJ’s 11th season, as cracks in her marriage to Joe make their way to the surface. Melissa says the issues have been a long time coming.
"For the past couple of years, we've been struggling a little bit more," she explains, "arguing more than ever. And I'm being real with it because it is what it is. And yes, we were always an amazing couple and we still are, but we definitely hit a bump in the road where we were not seeing eye to eye, for the last year and a half."
At the core of the couple’s issues is something on the other side of the fourth wall, the fact that Real Housewives changed their lives so much -- especially Melissa’s view of the world and her place in it. She says the last 10 years of living life in the public eye brought her back to who she always wanted to be, creating a bit of tension for Joe, challenging his old school views on men and women’s roles.
"I was working three jobs when he met me," Melissa notes. "I was putting myself through college … so, I was very independent. I was living on my own, and I think that's who I am, but then I also had beliefs in marriage and wanting to play house and all that, but it's really, deep down inside, I am a workaholic, independent, get-out-of-my-way type of girl."
Melissa admits it makes her "sad" to think that she may not have grown in the way she had without the show.
"I wouldn't turn back for anything," she says. "I'm so happy with the way it turned out, and I can't say the same for Joe. I can't say that he's happy, but I am. And that's a problem."
"He's gotten questioned from interviews before where they've said, if you can do it again would you do it, or would you not? He always says, no I would not take it, and I always say I would," she reveals, but adds that Joe has grown a lot from doing the show, too, as viewers constantly make him reevaluate some of his beliefs.
"I can't tell you what would have happened naturally if I didn't have all these opportunities and I wasn't opening businesses and running around the world doing what I'm doing," Melissa adds. "I don't know that I wouldn't have just found it inside myself and said, ‘Hey, listen. I got to go to work.’ I don't know."
The 42-year-old mom of three says she and Joe have made it over the hump (the family recently moved into a new home for a "fresh start") and their relationship is on the up and up -- ironically, thanks in part to being on reality TV.
"I think almost being on the show and discussing it in front of everyone really made us like, whoa, this is, it's real," she says, "and we better check ourselves and realize that our family means more and we're losing ourselves here for a minute."
"We both looked at each other like, ‘Wow, we're in a bad place. And we got to fix this,'" she confesses. "I do believe that the grass is not greener on the other side, it's greener where you water it. So I'm watering the grass and trying. I would never walk away from Joe, or this family or let -- or he would never -- without us fighting it, and I mean fighting it tooth and nail. And trust me, we've been fighting it."
Melissa is anxious about her marital troubles playing out for millions to see and bracing for the commentary that she’s just faking it for TV, an allegation she’s faced season after season when it comes to her personal life. From a potential long-lost sister to contemplating having a fourth child, the audience (and even co-star Jennifer) has called into question Melissa’s authenticity.
"It's so real,” Melissa promises. “Bravo's not down with that. You start doing any of that, you're gone. They are not down with that."
"I was only married for four years before I had been on TV," she points out. "I don't think anyone understands, almost my whole married life I am on reality TV."
Melissa says anyone who calls her authenticity into question isn’t looking at the big picture. This isn't a woman doing things for storylines, it’s a woman coming into her own by exploring different parts of her life.
"The funny thing is, like, that crazy Jennifer -- who that's a whole other thing, can't stand with her!" Melissa then rips, going off on a bit of a tangent. "She'll say, ‘Oh, fake this and this.’ No. It's actually really real. And I don't even want this to be real. And it is."
"She never has anything," she goes on. "So she just goes for, let me talk about Melissa so maybe people see my name talking about Melissa. She needs to get a grip. She's such a wannabe. I can't with her. Sorry but like, come on. I can't. First of all -- I'll never forget, she goes from the first season, like, ‘Oh my god, I don't drink. I don't drink.’ You're laying on the floor bombed like you're in a sorority! Come on, it's ridiculous. You want to talk about ridiculous? She will do anything for attention. And that doesn't work. I like authentic people."
"With her it's like, ‘Oh, what should I do? Oh, I'm going to get you,'" she continues. "No, I have no time for Jennifer. I really don't. Sorry. I just don't. I feel like she talks about her whole family. She talks about everyone other than herself and her marriage. It's like, ‘I'm going to use my, first we're going to go with my brother, then my parents' marriage. Now we're going to go through my daughter…’ But no, we want to hear about you. Is there anything? Do you got anything? No, she doesn't. She just wants to say, ‘Melissa is self-absorbed’ all day. ‘Melissa is self-absorbed’ is all you got? At least give me something better than that. It's like, geez. It's like, she sees Jackie's having a real argument with Teresa. She like, ‘All right, I guess I need to go for Melissa." Like no, why don't you really get mad at something for real? Instead of just pulling things out of your a**. That's what I want to say to Jennifer."
It seemed like Jennifer and Melissa had gotten to a better place after Jennifer brought it to Melissa’s attention that Teresa’s realtor, Michelle Pais, was saying Joe Gorga owed her husband tens of thousands of dollars for taking part in Joe’s "Grow With Gorga" seminar. Melissa thanked Jennifer for being a helpful messenger, but then didn’t like what she saw on TV.
"She doesn't have any guts," Melissa says. "In her confessionals, it was like, ‘Probably true. It's probably this…’ She talks when you're not in front of her, and now I'm seeing all that. I'm like, all right. So maybe I should have killed the messenger or gave her a hard time. Instead, Melissa, over here, it gives her the benefit of the doubt. And I'm like, ‘It's all right. Someone told you something you're telling me.’ But no, not to my face. Like in the confessionals, she's got a lot to say. Say it to my face."
Melissa has the same issue with Michelle herself, frustrated that the woman would give that information to Jennifer rather than confront Melissa and Joe about it head-on.
"I think that Michelle was realizing, ‘Oh, I have to come and bring it, and so maybe I'll use this,’ which, by the way, it was completely false," Melissa says. "It was another case of people who are just hungry and thirsty. And I don't know if Joe and I have targets on our head, like, ‘If you're hungry and you're on this show, here we are.’ I don't know if we're wearing some type of target, but it seems to be how, I think throughout the years, everyone's very used to that. So no surprises here."
According to Melissa, Joe made a deal with Michelle’s husband to split profits from the "Grow With Gorga" seminars moving forward, not for the one event they did together. Joe was only able to do one of the events before the world shut down due to the coronavirus pandemic.
For those who are confused about what "Grow With Gorga" is (and why someone would pay money for it), Melissa explains it as an inspirational conference for people looking to become entrepreneurs.
"There were hundreds of people that actually paid to come, because Joe came from two parents that were immigrants that had nothing," she says. "His father was a shoe maker, his mother drove a bus. They were hardworking people, and he has made it. He is self-made. He's made it to where he is by starting in a landscaping company, investment properties, how to get the loans, how to have people invest in you, believe in you, and worked up to what we have today. So he does have a lot to offer, a lot to teach."
Joe shares some of his knowledge for free on Instagram, mostly through inspirational quotes that even Melissa sometimes doesn’t understand.
"We laugh at him all day," Melissa cracks. "He loves to say quotes and find quotes. He doesn't even care. He doesn't even think about it. And I'm like, ‘Joe, everyone reads into your Instagram.’ He's like, why?! He does it on the couch eating popcorn and doesn't even go back and look at it. It's so not a big deal to him, but I'm always like, ‘What's this mean? What's this?'"
Joe isn’t the only family member catching attention on social media. His and Melissa’s niece, Teresa’s daughter, Gia, accidentally went viral over the last few months thanks to a years-old clip of her singing on RHONJ becoming a go-to sound on TikTok, with users illustrating moments from their past they wish they could forget. The audio, referred to as "Gia’s Sad Song" by fans, is from a season 3 episode, where Gia emotionally performed an original song for her mom and uncle.
"Waking up in the morning, thinking about so many things," a then-10-year-old Gia sang through tears. "I just wish things would get better, I’m trying to get rid of them but nothing seems to stay the same. Woke up in the morning, doing my hair, makeup, getting my clothes on. Walking into school, thinking of what is going to happen next. Things are just caught up in my mind, just cannot get rid of them. I am worrying and worrying, I just cannot get rid of this."
Celebs like Lil Nas X have covered the track, while Cardi B says she can’t get the tune out of her head. Gia even recently lip-dubbed the audio, after initially cringing over its new life in 2021.
"I can't believe how many times Cardi B has said something about it, it's crazy," Melissa says. "It's so crazy, because I see us standing there over her while she's singing this, and it's actually such a sad, it was such a sad day, and for now everyone to kind of make it like a funny thing, it's kind of like it went full circle I guess, and now Gia's happy and she's doing great. I think it's inspiring to show this little girl was going through something, and now we're all singing about it on TikTok, it's crazy. I think it's insane. I'm sure she was cloud nine over it. It's so funny."
The Real Housewives of New Jersey airs Wednesdays at 9 p.m. ET/PT on Bravo.