Being in the spotlight on one of the most successful Bravo TV’s franchises Melissa Gorga has certainly made a name for herself. To search for Melissa on the Internet or browse through social media feeds, one will find her life on display along with that of her high profile family. What one does not see is the actual everyday, behind the scenes look of Melissa at her home in her private sanctuary, a haven that is filled with warmth, love and the strength of a woman embracing her identity and not afraid to share it.
Walking up to the front door of Melissa Gorga’s home, a comfortable ambiance enveloped its surroundings. In a neighborhood lined with spectacular trees in the upscale neighborhood of Franklin Lakes, NJ, there was not the aura of drama and tension found on television as one may expect. As Melissa opened the door and greeted us with a big smile, she embraced me with a hug as if we have been lifelong friends. Her hospitality extended to my team for the interview which was very welcoming. The kitchen counter was lined with fruit and baked goods for breakfast and her sweet little Pomeranian dog Nico barked in excitement as we entered the Gorga Christmas wonderland.
Beautifully ornate Christmas trees graced her foyer and living space. Simple, elegant yet radiating coziness with stockings hung on the fireplace embroidered with the names of her family.
“I decorated so early this year. It’s not even Thanksgiving yet, my full decor is out,” chuckled Melissa.
Personally, my team and I were grateful as we had the opportunity to capture the enchanting Christmas-themed photos for her interview.
Having just wrapped up filming season 14 of “The Real Housewives of New Jersey” and returning from Bravo Con, Melissa relished the chance to finally sit and rest for a “minute.” Grateful for no longer filming during the holidays, she now enjoys the time to unwind and partake in family traditions with loved ones.
So what does Melissa do during her off time from daily cameras? She shared one of her favorite annual Christmas outings, “I do Mariah Carey, every single year. We go to her show at Madison Square Garden. It’s my cousins weekend. My sisters and all of my first cousins all go together. We sleep over for two nights and have a weekend in New York; it’s so much fun.”
Christmas Eve is hosted at home while Christmas day is celebrated at her cousin Tara’s residence. After Christmas Melissa, Joe, and their kids embark on their annual family vacation to Aruba to soak in the sun, a tradition they have had for the last 15 years.
Reflecting the Italian tradition, the Gorga family serves the traditional seven fishes on Christmas Eve. In addition Melissa serves her specialty eggplant dish along with some salads she enjoys making. While she loves cooking, she admitted that since her in-laws have passed, she now orders the seven fishes for Christmas Eve so that she may enjoy more quality time with her family.
When asked if Melissa still spoils her children with presents underneath the tree, she responds, “I do, I think I overdid it their whole life and they are so used to seeing these enormous piles, and now that they are getting older, I can’t pile up a bunch of balls and toys and dolls and they are getting less because everything is a lot more expensive now.”
She added, “Now it’s shoes, clothes, and it’s not as fun. Every year Joe and I would go to ‘Toys R Us’ and load the cart and now we don’t have that anymore. That I will always miss. There is nothing like having toddlers at Christmastime. Even the pumpkin patch during Thanksgiving. I miss doing all those things. They are not into that anymore.”
Looking at Melissa’s Instagram posts, one can see how much she and her husband Joe enjoyed doing family activities together with their children, such as the adorable matching family costumes they wore for Halloween when the kids were younger.
While she admits that those events have stopped with their children, she enjoys the next phase they have moved into together.
“It’s turning a corner now that we have conversations with them. Now we are out to dinner with them. We talk to them about life. We are turning a corner, but it’s also a great corner to turn. I now can rely on my children for advice and conversation.”
Joe, Gorga’s well known charismatic husband along with her three children Antonia (18), Gino (16) and Joey (13) form the core of Melissa’s loves. Family is everything and while they have grown up for more than a decade in front of cameras, the Gorgas have managed to maintain a strong dynamic of family values with their children that keeps their bond strong.
When asked how they have kept their children grounded by being in the family spotlight, Melissa explained, “Joe and I made that a priority since the day we got on the show. It’s very much so about staying normal, staying grounded, not acting like anything different than we used to be. The kids see that in us. I think we are very good at being humble and down to earth and when we meet people, when we are on the football field with our kids, we are just like everyone else. We are just parents out there watching our kids play football.”
She emphasizes that they still continue to eat family dinners together every night and is something that her kids look forward to. “They see their parents everywhere. They see when they come home from football we are waiting for them and then we eat dinner together. They know it, they are seeing it…I want them to do that with their families.”
Exposed to the opinions of reality TV viewers, as with all reality stars, Melissa is not immune to both strong support and criticism.
In regards to social media comments, Melissa reflected, “the boys don’t pay attention to it at all. My daughter will see some things…she’s just like me, she lets everything roll off her shoulder, she doesn’t pay attention to it, she understands that there are negative people in the world, she understands what a hater is, she understands people who don’t root for people, people who might not be so happy in life and do negative things to people who are happy. She understands all of that. It’s good because she reads it, she laughs at it and keeps moving.”
Melissa, along with her family understands what is real at home, behind closed doors and what is not always shown in front of the cameras.
This fall Antonia left the family nest for college and has started her new chapter in life at the University of Delaware. As many parents can relate to their first child leaving home, Melissa explains what it is like for her.
“It’s always surreal that she is no longer here, she’s just washing her own clothes, and buying her own soap, it’s all the little weird things that make me think, ‘does she know how to do this?’ But it’s great and she couldn’t be any happier. She is living, she loves it, she’s really enjoying it. It was a really great choice of school for her,” Melissa affectionately remarks.
As the 14th season of “The Real Housewives of New Jersey” concluded, viewers can expect a new vibe from the upcoming season.
“It’s all new and different energy. There are a lot of twists and turns in relationships, so I do think this season is going to be a lot different from the others,” shared Melissa.
Being a seasoned cast member, Melissa did not find the changes difficult as one would expect. “I feel confident enough now that at this point whatever goes on, I’ll keep it moving and stay true to myself. I come home and know that my kids are still going to look at me and feel proud. I never want to embarrass them, that is always the first thing on my mind. Not to say there haven’t been times that I certainly have, and look back and think ‘ugh’ but I think of them when I am on camera.”
In addition to the show, Melissa is known for her podcast ‘On Display with Melissa Gorga’ currently in its second season. With millions of downloads, Gorga is grateful that she has this platform as it was something that she was initially hesitant to embrace.
She describes the podcast as “an unfiltered version of me, it’s my opinion of what is going on other Housewives shows, what is going on in my life, I give a lot of relationship advice with Joe. Just easy, happy talk. I feel podcasts should be light and they should be easy listening. I feel that is what this is.”
For any fan of the Housewives franchise, it’s no secret that husband Joe Gorga is clearly a fan favorite! “No matter what, everybody knows Joe,” Melissa laughs.
Melissa’s boutique ‘Envy by Melissa Gorga’ has been going strong featuring high-end clothing, shoes and accessories. The dresses worn for her photoshoot on this story were all items from ‘Envy.’
“Envy is so amazing and is something that blows me away everyday. What I was able to create with that business, it’s a small business, I always hope to inspire my daughter and inspire other women. I was a stay-at-home Mom of three. I didn’t have to work because I was taken care of, but it was something that I wanted for myself. It makes me happy and who knew it would be so lucrative at the same time! It just really took off, the online EnvybyMG.com is incredible,” Melissa gushed.
Be on the lookout as a second location in Long Island is in the works for the future.
As a business owner, Gorga understands that success also comes from being a good leader to her staff, that she refers to as her team.
“I always tell them, ‘when I’m not at the store, I want you to act as if it’s your store. Make pretend you are me. Treat everyone who walks in here as if it’s your own personal business.” Melissa adds, “they do and I have weaned people out who do not act that way.”
Melissa believes that while she loves being a mother and wife, it is also important to find something that she can enjoy to not lose her identity as a woman. “If there is a way that you can get into your own business, start a job, do something that makes you happy, I always encourage it.”
It has been a long journey as Melissa first appeared on ‘RHONJ’ in 2010 when her youngest son was just two months old. Looking back, she has seen how much she has evolved over the years both naturally in time and being on the show.
“I am older, wiser, make better choices, I speak up for myself more. I am not afraid to hurt someone’s feelings anymore when it comes to saying if I think they are wrong or right. I just feel I have learned to speak up and ask for things that you want in life. I think that is really important. Also, I take chances a lot more,” Melissa reflects.
As life continues to change rapidly, and our children grow up with technology, for fun, Gorga describes herself as “that girl” who enjoys the Instagram pages with the 80’s memes. We laughed remembering the days of Colorforms, Lite Brites, and old toys we grew up playing. And what 80’s kid doesn’t remember Ralph Macchio and ‘The Karate Kid,’ who is a distant 3rd or 4th cousin of Melissa Gorga. While they have never met in person, I think it’s time for the intro to be made!
Melissa and I ended the interview laughing about the deer in her neighborhood as she describes humans being the minority to the deer! While she does not enjoy the deer eating her hydrangeas, they are welcome to show up for Christmas and the snow!
Look out for season 14 of ‘The Real Housewives of New Jersey’ in 2024.
Photographer: Jessielyn Palumbo Kennedy
Make-up Artist: Angelica Alberti
Hair Stylist: Pushime Ala
Clothing: Envy by Melissa Gorga