‘Real Housewives of New Jersey’ Star Jenn Fessler Knows the Show Needs a Cast Change

Rich Polk/Bravo via Getty Images
Rich Polk/Bravo via Getty Images

The Real Housewives of New Jersey friend-of Jennifer Fessler is open to filming with any of her co-stars going forward—as long as they don’t all return.

The second season friend has become the show’s breakout star, finding herself the comic voice of reason amid a cast stalemate so severe that the entire reunion was canceled, with veterans (and sisters-in-law) Teresa Giudice and Melissa Gorga avoiding each other all season.

Fessler is the rare RHONJ cast member, then, simply because she’s willing to film with all of her castmates. It’s no secret that the RHONJ cast members are more divided than ever before, and Fessler found herself right in the center as she looked to amend the cast’s fractured relationship with Giudice, to the chagrin of her close friends, Rachel Fuda and Margaret Josephs.

“Season 14 was not the easy, breezy, funny, silly season that Season 13 felt like,” she told The Daily Beast’s Obsessed. “Season 1, I didn’t really have to engage in the craziness, and I was definitely sucked in more my second season.”

“But, I also think it’s nice to be able to give my opinion more, to weigh in,” she added.

A promo photo of Jennifer Fessler

Jennifer Fessler

Andrew Eccles/Bravo

It’s typical for Housewives to glow up after the first season on a show, whether it’s procuring new lips, an entirely new face, or a new accent (a la Dorit Kemsley), as their reality TV journey progresses. Entering her second season with a facelift, a nose job and more confidence to get in the mud, Fessler has been very open about the cosmetic procedures she got in between filming Season 13 and 14.

For her, the work wasn’t about being on camera, and she had long picked out her facelift doctor. Fessler knows it’s a lose, lose situation with the social media cesspool, and feels much better watching herself on TV, post-procedures.

Fessler joined the show as a friend of Josephs, and their years-long friendship hit some road bumps this season amid Fessler’s amicable relationship with co-stars Giudice and Jennifer Aydin. While she and Josephs are currently in a great place, Fessler remains on the outs with Fuda, who also joined the show last season.

In the second episode of the season, Fessler sat down with Giudice to clear up rumors she was spreading about Fuda’s husband, John, allegedly working as a drug dealer, hoping to get Giudice to admit she doesn’t currently think John is a drug dealer. Fuda then broke down in tears following the conversation, telling Fessler she feels betrayed as a friend.

“I definitely did not foresee her having such an intense reaction to that conversation. Having said that, I didn’t think that Rachel is going to love it,” Fessler said. “I felt so excited by getting Teresa to say John Fuda is not a drug dealer. John Fuda was a kid when he did this stupid kid stuff, and got himself in trouble in this sort of sad way. But that’s old news. That’s kid behavior. And now he’s this great father, and this great husband and this great businessman. So for me, I thought that it was going to be a victory, but not so much.”

Filming for Season 14 wrapped in October, and the former friends still remain on the outs. John Fuda accused Fessler of being a “social climber,” a claim that “baffled” Fessler.

“First of all, I’ve said this in other interviews, but there’s no one below me. And there’s no one above me,” she said. “And that goes for all of us. So there’s no way to climb by being friends with anyone. That’s what I’ve learned in therapy.”

Jenn Fessler Is the Savior of ‘The Real Housewives of New Jersey’

As for her own burgeoning friendship with Giudice and Aydin, Fessler’s “taken a step back” amid a social media debacle involving both ladies, revealed by a Twitter user who goes by the handle “MelissasOldNose.” As that username may suggest, the account long served as a Melissa Gorga hate account before going rogue.

The fan actually found herself in the RHONJ drama, too, alleging that Aydin (and Giudice) would give her behind-the-scenes info in exchange for her spreading hate and defamatory stories about Gorga, Josephs, and the duo’s other foes.

While the Real Housewives fanbase has always been volatile, especially in recent years, the RHONJ fever pitch is unlike any other.

“I think it’s a situation where viewers love the women on Jersey so much, and they become so attached to the women and their lives that they take it personally when things don’t go well,” she said. “I get that it affects people because as a viewer, I would think about this stuff on Monday mornings, too, right? Go into my office, and that was the thing on my mind. Forget work. It was what had happened the night before with, you know, Teresa, Melissa, or whoever it was.”

While the intensity is unlike any other with the RHONJ fans, all sectors of the Bravoverse have faced tumult, from the nationwide fervor following the Vanderpump Rules Scandoval to the reveal that The Real Housewives of Salt Lake City star Monica Garcia was behind a reality TV account that had targeted the cast at large.

Now more than ever, reality stars can’t avoid the social media reactions, as the audience input grows in intensity, while some cast members attempt to pander to viewer expectations.

“I think about women like Monica Garcia from Salt Lake, and everybody loved her. Right? Well, no, certainly not everybody. That’s a reach,” Fessler said. “But I feel like a lot of the fans absolutely loved her, which for me, went against what I thought when I was watching would happen, because the Salt Lake City ladies are also so beloved. It’s hard to predict which way the fans will go.”

“There’s not a lot of forgiveness. There’s not a lot of room to fuck up before the vultures descend,” she added.

A friend-of in the modern era, where women like Miami’s Adriana de Moura and Marysol Patton have found themselves front and center in the edit, Fessler said she feels just as involved as any other Housewife. While she’d love to hold a hypothetical tomato, she’s happy to return in any form.

With ample change on the horizon, Fessler simply hopes to be invited back next year. After a season of tumult on all sides, she’s eager for more “love and respect” and a return to a cast where “women may fight and carry on, but also have love for each other at the end of the day.”

“I wouldn’t want to return to the situation as it is now,” she said.

Season 13 of RHONJ came to a dramatic conclusion with the end of the Giudice and Gorga decade-long feud, as Gorga ditched Giudice’s wedding, and Giudice attempted to fire her on camera at the reunion. So, it was a surprise for viewers when cameras picked up for Season 14 with the entire cast returning.

It’s unclear what direction Bravo will take for Season 15, but one thing’s certain: There will be severe cast changes. The network officially scrapped this season’s reunion—an extreme step that has only happened once before across the franchise, with The Real Housewives of New York City Season 13.

A photo still of Teresa Giudice, Jennifer Fessler, Jackie Goldschneider, and Rachel Fuda

Teresa Giudice, Jennifer Fessler, Jackie Goldschneider, and Rachel Fuda

Ralph Bavaro/Bravo via Getty Images

RHONY returned two years later with an entirely new cast, the OG’s shuttered off to a legacy Ultimate Girls Trip as Bravo embarked on a full reboot for the first time in network history. The network, which historically remains mum about casting rumors, hasn’t said what the future of RHONJ will entail, but Cohen said the Season 14 finale acts as a definitive conclusion, and will explain why there’s no reunion.

Fessler wasn’t able to comment on the reunion, and is just as curious as the rest of the audience about what direction Season 15 will take.

“I'm trying to figure it out, like everyone else is, all the time. What’s going to happen? Who’s on the chopping block? she said. “And it wakes me up in the middle of night. Not in a frightened-of-it wakes me up [way], but more like, ‘Well, in this scenario if Teresa stays, let’s say Danielle and Jen stay, what happens then? And if Melissa stays, and Marge…’ So it’s in my head a lot, and I’m trying to put the puzzle together. But I don’t know what’s going to happen.”

Not only is she hoping for a lighter Season 15, but Fessler wants to see the Ultimate Girls Trip spinoff return with a season entirely composed of friends-of. Having attended BravoCon last fall, Fessler said it was “like a dream come true” meeting all the different casts. For a professed Housewives “super fan” like Fessler, it was “completely surreal that they would even know my name.” She especially loved spending time with RHOSLC stars Meredith Marks and Whitney Rose, as well as RHOC Housewives Tamra Judge and Jennifer Pedranti.

While she’s a happy member of the RHONJ cast, she’d love to join RHONY or RHOBH in another life.

“I love New York. I think I would fit in better with old New York, just because of my age,” she said. “And I would love to be on Beverly Hills, but I do not have the money for that shit.”

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