Rosie Pierri has belly-flopped into the hearts of "The Real Housewives of New Jersey" viewers, and we just can't quit her.
Never in the history of the Bravo franchise has a supporting cast member so swiftly and completely stolen the spotlight from the leading ladies. Seriously, she's like the human Jiggy. But though we love Rosie the Riveting (I want credit for making that up), she's still a relative enigma, dropping in now and again to teach us How Not to Babysit 101, or to liven up a stiff pool party.
On this week's episode of "The Real Housewives of New Jersey" (Sundays at 10 p.m. ET on Bravo), she's lifting the veil of secrecy. She gets candid with her sister Kathy Wakile, a main cast member on the show, in our exclusive sneak peek below and very bravely comes out to her beloved niece and nephew. Rosie's sexual orientation had never been explicitly discussed on "Real Housewives" since she became a part of the series with Kathy in Season 3. The upcoming episode will change your perception of her -- and it may even bring tears to your eyes.
On the phone, she is every bit the funny, straight-shooter you see on the show -- but she's much softer. She's far deeper and more complex than you'd assume, and the fierce love she has for her family is palpable. It was refreshing to see the world through Rosie-colored classes, if only for 30 minutes.
Below, find out what Rosie had to say about coming out in a traditional Italian family, Joe Giudice calling her a "Butchie Boy" and more.
Besides filming "Housewives," what are you up to? Do you have a job?
Here's what I do: I work. I work a lot. I am a senior project manger for a company that manufactures high-end displays and furniture for the retail industry ... I have a pretty crazy schedule, especially during the summer months. It's our busiest time.
How do your co-workers feel about your sudden fame?
Some of them watch the show and some of them didn't, and [after reminding them to watch it] then they've been watching and they think it's really cool. Some of my clients actually watch the show, so I've been getting crazy emails. Some of them are busting my chops like, "Oh, you'll forget us when you're a big star!" Yeah, OK. They know I can kid around and I'm always up for a joke.
People usually love to hate on "Housewives," and comments can be brutal. How do you think you've become such a beloved star?
Maybe I've always been a little different than everybody else. I hate to pat myself on the back because I'm not at all like, full of myself, but I am a pretty unique person. I've always tried to stay away from like, all the drama in my life because it always bogs you down.
And I have like a crazy job ... So there's chaos all day for me sometimes. So when I'm done work, I just try to like unwind and be happy and just take everything with a grain of salt. And just try to stay positive. And with the business that I'm in, you have to stay positive. If you're negative, nothing will get done, nothing will be built and nothing will get out the door.
I've had some struggles, so at this point in my life I'm trying to stay positive all the time, because some other things along the way made me this person. As you get older and you grow, you become who you're going to be in life. And that's what I think is happening. It's just me being me.
Can you tell me more about that struggle?
I went through 10 years when I realized who I was. In my 20s, I never thought of anything. I had tons of friends and was all about being involved with activities, sports, I was the editor-in-chief of my yearbook. I was always busy, and I worked when I was in high school also so I had no time to think about boys or girls or anything. My mind didn't go there.
Some of my friends had little crushes and stuff like that, but I never really had a crush until later in life. I was a little bit of a late bloomer. So when I realized what was happening, I was really scared and I hid it in my 20s. Like, maybe 22 or something like that. I struggled a lot with it, and it was hard for me to talk to my family about it. I had to come to terms with myself.
Before I could actually ask somebody else to accept me, I had to accept myself and I wasn't ready to do that. I was struggling. Like, this is not what I'm supposed to be? Why is this happening to me? I was kind of upset about it.
It took me a long time to talk to my sister about it. I did though, I finally did ... I was in my 30s. I never talked to my mom about it. That came later.
In our exclusive clip above from the upcoming episode, Kathy mentioned that it couldn't have been easy to come out with a traditional Italian family ...
My mom saw all the pain I was going through and she didn't know where it was coming from. I didn't sit down and tell her. I had a little breakdown, to tell you the truth. But it was rough.
She saw me struggle but she didn't know what I was struggling with because I had a lot of friends, I excelled in most things that I did ... She saw me struggling and didn't know why I was so unhappy. My mother was so kind and sweet and accepting and she's a wonderful lady and I wouldn't be the person I am today if she wasn't the person she is. I knew she would, I just wasn't sure how to tell her. She ultimately just wants us to be happy and have a good life.
What made you decide, years later, to come out to your niece and nephew -- and to share that with the whole world?
You know what it was? Last season, they flashed me in a few times on the show and I knew I was going to be caught on camera again 'cause I'm with my sister and the kids and Richie [Kathy's husband] a lot. So the viewers -- it's not rocket science to figure it out! So I figured they're gonna see some things, maybe [the tabloids] would say some things or whatever. And the kids, I was getting worried about that.
I didn't want them to find out that way. I would rather them be talked to about it before they hear. They're very innocent children, even though they are older. Victoria was 17 and Joey was 15. They didn't know. They don't look at me like that; they look at me as their Aunt Rosie. They see as me as funny, happy, having a good time, kidding around. That's what they see. They don't see somebody who is gay or not gay; they have a loving heart.
So I talked to my sister and said "Kath, I think it's best if you and Richie talk to them and then maybe I talk to them," so I guess that's how it all came about.
And to do it in front of the camera I thought it would be a good thing to show to viewers. If there's people out there who are struggling like I did, why make them struggle so bad the way I did? It'll help them to not keep it to themselves for such a long time, and to see my family's reaction to it. "Oh, you know what, look at that! Their reaction was OK!" Maybe it'll help somebody else out there, even people on the other end of it that are not the person who is gay -- the other people who have to accept it and maybe don't understand it.
It was a big step for me, to tell you the truth. I don't go around with a poster on my back saying, "I'm gay!" If somebody asks me, I'll tell them the truth; if not, I leave it alone. I don't want there to be labels. So if anybody had a question in their mind, there's no questions anymore.
Unfortunately, not everyone is so supportive. It was troubling to hear Joe Giudice call you "Butchie Boy." Did you reach out to him after that?
I don't talk to him about anything! [Laughs.] It's his opinion and everyone has one, so I'm not gonna go up to him and say, "Why did you call me that?" He can call me an asshole and then I guess, I'm an asshole! That's pretty much my attitude: "Is that what you got for me? That's good!" I'm not gonna react to people that don't really know anything about it. It doesn't make sense to open up a can of worms. He was on a rant or whatever his problem was that day, I have no idea. I don't know if he has a problem with it to be quite honest.
I kinda made a joke out of it when we were on "Watch What Happens Live!" last week. Andy [Cohen] asked me [about coming out to Joey and Victoria] and I said, "Well, they don't look at me as 'Butchie Boy'!" I look at it as a joke. The shoe fits -- and I guess I'm wearing it!
Speaking of jokes, people got a kick out of the time you mentioned that Teresa's not jealous of you because you live at home. Are you still bunking with your mom?
I live with my mom. It's a mother/daughter home. She lives upstairs and I have my own apartment and I wouldn't have it any other way. I want to be with my mom forever. I know that nothing is forever, but for the time that I have right now, that's where I want to be. I enjoy living with her. I'm the youngest and I'm single and I did have my own home at one time and I wasn't happy there. I sold my home and I moved back in with my mom. I owned a house and I'm thinking about what she's up to so I'm like, it just didn't make sense! I'm cutting two lawns, you know what I mean? I had enough of this living on my own kinda thing. I kinda need her in my life all the time.
She just lifts me up. In the morning, I get up and she goes to church every morning, so at 7:30 she's getting ready and I'm getting ready and we kinda meet at the door as we're leaving, and it's always great to see her first thing.
It really sounds like the show has been a great addition to your life, but was there ever a time you wished you hadn't joined?
No, I'm OK with everything. I'm happy that I did that, and I'm happy I decided to [come out] on television. My sister and the kids and Richie are a huge part of my life, so if you want the whole complete pie, then I have to be in that pie. It's reality, right? The reality is that we're tight and I'm happy to be doing stuff with them.
I love your outlook on life. Do you have any last words of wisdom?
These are the three things I try to live by, after all my struggles.
You have to love yourself, that's the number 1 thing. Number 2, you have to love God. And the next thing is you gotta love others as much as you can, even though there's people out there that will try to hurt you. You got to try to look beyond the negative in somebody and look at the positive and love them for who they are. Whether they're different than you or the same, just love each other out there. Life's too short to get hung up on all the craziness.
"The Real Housewives of New Jersey" airs at 10 p.m. ET on Sundays on Bravo.