Dolores Catania’s rise to prominence was due to her appearance in the hit reality television series, “The Real Housewives of New Jersey”, also known as “RHONJ.” Through the show, the viewers learned not only about her personal life, but also about her lifestyle, business enterprise, and her circle of friends. It was in the 11th season of the show that her mother, Valerie, had a health scare and Dolores went through emotional turmoil when she learned about her mother’s heart condition.
- 1 A brief background on “The Real Housewives on New Jersey”
- 2 Get to know Dolores Catalina
- 3 Her journey in “The Real Housewives of New Jersey”
- 4 Personal Life – marriage, divorce, new boyfriends, and children
- 5 Dolores’s mother, Valerie, had a health scare
A brief background on “The Real Housewives on New Jersey”
“RHONJ” is the fourth spin-off series from the popular reality-TV franchise, “Real Housewives.” In this installment, the series featured the lifestyle, family drama, scandals, and successes of some of the affluent Italian-American women residing in New Jersey. It premiered on 12 May 2009 and was produced by Sirens Media for Bravo TV.
@Real Housewives of New Jersey – Premiere tonight at 9pm on @Bravo
Difference from other “Real Housewives” spin-off series
The TV show initially chronicled the lives of five women, but as the years went by, they added more wives into the narrative. To make it different from its original series, as well as the other spin-off series, for the first time in “Real Housewives” history, this version featured some wives who were somehow related to each other. For instance, during its first season, the viewers were introduced to the Laurita sisters Caroline and Dina, who were married to brothers Albert and Tommy Manzo, respectively. Jacqueline Grippe became a Laurita because she married Caroline and Dina’s brother, Chris. At some point, the viewers got to know the whole clan, and the other wives in the cast grew up in the same city, so they often shared common friends.
How did the TV show fare in the rating game?
The first season attracted an average of over 2.5 million viewers, and Bravo TV executives gave the green light to order a new season. The ratings continued to increase over the years, and the show became one of the fan favorites in all of the spin-off series. When the Covid-19 pandemic happened, it disrupted the production, and the cable network postponed its 11th season. They hibernated for a year and went back on air in February 2021. When they aired the 12th season on 1 February 2022, the premiere scored a 0.35 in the 18-49 age demographics, which translated to over one million live viewers. The cable network was pleased with the result, considering that other series in the franchise except for “The Real Housewives of Atlanta” had a hard time attracting a million or more live viewers.
Get to know Dolores Catalina
Early life, education, and family
Dolores Spagnola was born on 28 December 1970, in Paterson, New Jersey, to parents from a family of immigrants who moved to the United States. Her Italian father, Lawrence Spagnola, was a former law enforcement officer who was promoted to Chief of Police, while her mother, Valerie Spagnola, was a homemaker who raised Dolores and her three siblings, Louis, Val and Laura in a modest lifestyle. She never shared much about her family except that her parents stayed happily married all these years. It was never confirmed if she graduated from college, but she was said to have pursued a Juris Doctor degree in Gambling Law at Seton Hall University.
Career before she became a TV celebrity and actress
Before hobnobbing with some of the rich and famous in the social circles of the Garden State, Dolores did a lot of regular jobs. At 12 years old, she served customers at their tables in a restaurant. When she became 15 years old, she was hired as a shampoo girl at a local beauty shop, and did it for the next three years. There was a time when she had more than one job at a time, such as a corrections officer during the day and a waitress at night. She was also into real estate, from which she earned her millions. When she was about 37 years old, she became a surgical assistant, to get hired for which she said, ‘I studied for three years for a degree that almost killed me, and it took forever to get.’ She looked back with some amusement at her sheer determination, because she had to take a class just to understand the medical terminologies that they used in the other classes that she attended.
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Her journey in “The Real Housewives of New Jersey”
Long-time viewers of “RHONJ” knew Dolores as she was already introduced during the first season of the TV show. The producers asked her to be part of the main cast, but for some reason she declined, opting to just make guest appearances. She knew everyone on the show because she grew up with most of them as they lived in the same neighborhood, or knew common friends. Had she accepted the offer, Caroline Manzo wouldn’t have been included on the inaugural list of housewives.
Started in the seventh season as part of the main cast
In July 2016, Dolores was introduced as one of the main cast in the seventh season of the show, along with Siggy Flicker, replacing Amber Marchese, Teresa Aprea, and Nicole Napolitano. At that time, the featured wives were Melissa Gorga, Teresa Giudice, and Jacqueline Laurita who returned to the show, and other former cast members would appear sporadically during the entire season. It wasn’t a difficult transition for Dolores since she mostly knew the original cast members, and it focused on her family including her parents, children, siblings and former lovers.
Impressed with her great relationship with her ex-husband
The viewers were amazed at Dolores’ relationship with her ex-husband, Frank Catania, as they had a close friendship unusual for couples who went through a divorce. The fact that they both lived in the same house, and spent their free time together without the drama of throwing insults at each other, inspired many people. They chose to prioritize the feelings and welfare of their two kids, Gabrielle and Frank Jr., also known as Frankie. During her interview with Michael Rafferty on “The Wendy Williams Show,” she shared that ‘it takes two to tango.’ To make the friendship work, the effort had to come from both sides.
Her ex-husband and ex-boyfriend became friends
Most viewers thought that when any of them found another partner, things would get messy. However, Dolores and Frank continued to surprise the fans of “RHONJ”. Frank was quite supportive of her new relationship with David Principe. In fact, Frank was the one who built her boyfriend’s house, and they all lived together while they waited for it to be finished. When Dolores and David broke up after being together for five years, everyone was affected by it. However, Dolores never stopped her kids and ex-husband from continuing their friendship with David.
One of the fan-favorites in the “Real Housewives” universe
With all the huge personalities in the “Real Housewives” franchise series, Dolores became one of the fan favorites. In 2018, when Bravo fans were asked to vote for the most relatable person in the show, they chose her, and even named her Miss Congeniality. The fans loved her for being as real as was possible in a reality-TV show. Whenever there were fights between the cast members, she would always remember her father’s advice to her, ‘I taught you to be a friend when it’s hard to be a friend. I didn’t teach you to be a friend just to people when it was easy to be.’ She said continuing to be a friend to someone who wasn’t defendable was difficult, but it wasn’t in her to take the easy route.
Personal Life – marriage, divorce, new boyfriends, and children
The father of her children
When Dolores became a regular member of “RHONJ,” she shared that she was married to Frank, an entrepreneur, at the age of 19 years. However, when she discovered that he cheated on her when she was pregnant with her second child, their marriage crumbled. After 10 years of being together, they both filed for divorce which was granted. At first, things weren’t easy between them, but they were able to work it out, and made sacrifices for the sake of their children.
Other former boyfriends
It was reported that she was in a long-term relationship with someone after Frank, but it wasn’t clarified in “RHONJ” – the fans only got to know David Principe as he was featured in the TV show. Unfortunately, he was married to his work as a doctor, and she wanted more from him. While Dolores said that David was shocked when she broke up with him, it didn’t take long for them to date other people. Although he bought her a car on her 50th birthday, and built a house for her, she wondered if he could make a life-changing decision if she was involved in an accident. She said, ‘Since [David]’s smart enough to know he can change, and I’m smart enough to know that I want a little more, it’s not something that’s sustainable.’
Unconventional living arrangements during the pandemic
Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, Dolores’ family arrangements changed. She said it was ironic that she built a house with her now ex-boyfriend, David, but didn’t move in. She was at her ex-husband’s house at that time, and when Frank Jr. came home due to the pandemic, he had to stay with David at the new house. It was the best possible place for her son, because he was studying for his GMAT test so that he could get into graduate school. She and Frank decided to live separately, since their children graduated and they both needed privacy.
— Team Faux Reality (@FauxRealityM) June 11, 2016
Proud of her two children
A lot of people were asking how Dolores’ children took the unusual family dynamics they had at home. Some people thought it was foolish of her to live together with her ex-husband, however, fans need not worry because it worked out just fine, and the children were quite happy about it. Both her children earned their college degrees, and each time they reached a milestone, the proud mother posted them on her Instagram account.
Gabrielle, at 26 years old, graduated in Spring 2021 with a Veterinary Medicine degree from Tufts University. It wasn’t that long before Dolores shared in 2020 that her daughter was accepted into the university for her clinical year, after graduating from the Ross University School of Veterinary Medicine in Saint Kitts. Frankie Jr., on the other hand, graduated summa cum laude with a bachelor’s degree from Sacred Heart University, and was hired as an Asset Manager for Louie Ruela’s real estate company, Revolve Capital. Louie has been fellow cast member Teresa Giudice’s boyfriend for quite some time now.
New relationship, an Irish boyfriend
During a guest appearance of Teresa Giudice in “Watch What Happens Live with Andy Cohen” on 1 February 2022, she revealed that Dolores was dating a new man, and she’d already met him, and felt that he was a great pick as compared to her ex-boyfriend David. They planned to go out for a double date after Dolores dropped off her boyfriend’s mother in Ireland. Later on, Dolores made her new relationship ‘Instagram official’, and introduced Paul “Paulie” Connel to the world; her new guy worked as an electrician based in New York City. Their mutual friends said that the two seemed to be a great match, and Dolores said that they’d been on a couple of vacations this early on in their relationship. Her friends said that she never looked quite this happy in a long time.
Building her new home put her at odds with her ex-husband
When she and David broke up, her plans of moving out of her ex-husband’s home were derailed, but only for a short time. Dolores moved into a luxurious townhouse in 2021, while her husband built her new home. However, the whole process put her at odds with Frank, because he was late in keeping with the deadline. During her conversation with her children, she told them, ‘I don’t want to fight with [Frank], but I want things done.’ Apparently, his focus was divided back then, since he was also busy with a new girlfriend, but promised that she would have a new kitchen and a new bathroom and that he would take care of everything. Her new home wouldn’t be finished anytime soon, since Dolores added more features such as a pool in her backyard.
Dolores’s mother, Valerie, had a health scare
Her mother’s heart problem
In one of the episodes in the 12th season of “The Real Housewives of New Jersey” aired in March 2022, Dolores shared that her mother, Valerie, had a health scare – in a stress test done in the hospital, the doctors found an abnormality in her heart. They also shared in the show the moment when she received the news that Valerie would probably need to undergo open-heart surgery. Apparently, her mother went to the doctor every three years for a medical check-up, and on her last visit, the doctors said that her heart was in dire condition.
Spagnola’s medical history and her mother’s current condition
Dolores might be a strong woman, but her mind and emotions were in turmoil when she learned of the diagnosis. Her family has a history of people suffering from heart problems, and she could still remember the day when her grandmother died from a heart attack, so she couldn’t help but worry, although her Nana was already 104 years old when it happened. She said that the good thing about knowing her mother’s condition this early was that the doctors were able to fix the problem, before it worsened to the point that they couldn’t do anything about it. She thanked all her friends and fans for the support they gave her, and updated everyone that her mother was doing well.
Reminded everyone to take a breather with an Instagram post
Dolores’s experience with her mother’s health condition made her realize many things, including self-care and self-love. She uploaded a photo of herself with her mother and reminded everyone to get regular check-ups with the doctor, take a 30-minute walk outside, or just get a new hobby. It was basically telling all the hardworking women out there to spend some time for their own benefit, because they deserved it. She said, ‘Ladies, I know it’s hard to put ourselves first sometimes, but you must.’
— Team Faux Reality (@FauxRealityM) June 11, 2016
Her parent’s non-traditional living arrangements
If some people wondered how Dolores managed her unusual family dynamics with her former husband, it was her experience with her own parents that helped her. Both her parents were already featured in her reality-TV show and the revelation of their living arrangements also surprised everyone. Her father and mother remained married even tough they lived separately for many years from the time when he was promoted as the Chief of Police in 1998. Since her mother didn’t want to leave their home in Totowa when her father needed to move to Paterson for his promotion, they just supported each other’s decision without breaking up. She said not to close their minds to non-traditional relationships, because it also had a positive side. Things need not be too messy in a relationship if people could only be a little more open and flexible in looking for a solution, even if it was unconventional.