How Dolores Catania Is Making Reality TV Work

How Dolores Catania Is

Making Reality TV Work

For New Jersey housewife, Dolores Catania, reality TV has been a means to reinvention.

The spirited mother of two, who has held posts as a correction officer, surgical technician, and now a television star and fitness studio owner, may be one of the newest cast members on The Real Housewives of New Jersey, but she has quickly emerged as one of the most sensible and empathetic of them all. Catania, who hails from Paterson NJ, tells SWAAY that despite taking an unconventional path in life, most notably skipping a formal college education, she has found empowerment and purpose, in part because of her reality show.

“My life inspiration is to constantly get out of my comfort zone,” says Catania, who became a correctional officer after she graduated high school. “Back when I wanted to be a cop you didn’t need to go to college. It was a blue collar mentality; you’ll have your pension and benefits, you know what you are getting paid every week. I liked law enforcement and I looked up to my dad who became Chief of Police.”

Despite now being divorced for 15 years, she and her ex-husband and business partner, Frank, have a better relationship than most married couples. Their two kids, Gabrielle, 21, and Frankie, 18, may keep the reality star on her toes these days (she says she’s not looking forward to her son leaving the nest), Catania found herself bored as a stay-at-home-mom.

“It’s all about drive and not being fearful.”

“When I had my daughter I thought ‘I’m married to an attorney and I thought I can stay home,” says Catania, who openly talks about her husband being unfaithful during her pregnancy, which left her as a single mom unexpectedly. “My mom always worked so I thought I wanted to be there. I soon found that you give up on yourself and lose yourself quickly. Sitting home watching cartoons not doing your hair and makeup, you lose your mojo. You go to the mall to shop at Marshalls. That was my life. I wouldn’t trade it but it did get mundane. I was afraid and insecure and I always thought that if I don’t have an education how can I do anything.”

Ms. Do-It-All

In order to restart her life and get re-motivated after five years, Catania decided to go back to school and get her real estate license. She says she was petrified of taking the test and began planning how she would retake it before even setting foot in the testing room.

“I was sweating,” she says. “I am very fearful of math. I set myself up for failure. I want women not to be afraid and to have confidence. A lack of confidence is your biggest demise.”

Catania says after unexpectedly passing the exam, she did well in real estate thanks to a strong housing market, but that didn’t last.

“When the real estate market crashed we had to pull together,” says Catania, who then decided she wanted to formalize her education and study to be a surgical technician, which took three years.

“It always bothered me that I didn’t have a [college] education,” says Catania. “I live in an affluent area and people always ask where I went to school. I always felt like not answering, so I decided to do something about it.”

When she was 39 years old Catania received her surgical technician degree at Dover College, so she could work in an operating room in a surgical center, assisting surgeons through all operations.
“It was hard as hell,” she says. “I was the oldest person [at school] by 20 years. It was the hardest thing I’ve ever done in my life.”
Catania Family courtesy of Bravo
It was around this time that Frank opened a gym, giving Catania a new business venture to work on.
“Frank went with his passion and open up a gym, and of course he makes me a part of it,” says Catania. “We started with a trailer in a parking lot. It was a huge thing to take on. We put everything we had into it to open and our whole lives were riding on this.”

Powerhouse Gym in Old Bridge, NJ, which was featured on Real Housewives, now has over 11,000 members and Catania says she just opened a second location also called Powerhouse in Whippany, NJ. According to Catania, having the show as a platform has helped her, and in turn, her business gain popularity.

“My inspiration for the show and for the gym is to tell women don’t fall on your face and stay there,” she says. “We all will get hurt, but be strong, emotionally, physically and financially. Pick yourself up and don’t give up. Care about yourself enough.”

At the gym, Catania strives to do something for women she credits her friend and fellow castmate, Siggy Flicker, with doing for her every single day- motivating her to get up and try harder.

“The times I had my back against the wall Siggy pushed me,” says Catania. “Even taking care of yourself, you feel like you can’t. I try to reach everyone I can. It’s a platform to help people.”

The Show

For Catania, who has more than 110,000 followers on Instagram, being a part of The Real Housewives of NJ offers her the chance to reach more women with her message of empowerment.

“I had 999 followers when I started the show,” laughs Catania. “I remember saying I wish I had 1,000 followers. [When I got to 1,000] I thought I was so cool. I thought I made it and I arrived. Frank every day tells me how many more followers I have. He’s so supportive and excited.”

“Don’t feel ‘less than’ because you don’t have a formal education. I know a lot of Harvard graduates who may not have what you have.”

Catania, who along with Flicker have set themselves apart as voices of reason on the show, hopes to continue putting out a positive message for viewers.

“I’ve grown so much,” she says. “I look at what I do from a woman’s point of view and all the women who have been in my position where one day you can have something and the next day you don’t.  It’s the scariest thing in the world. You want to curl up in a ball but then you look at your kids and say ‘I can’t fall on my face.’ You take chances and make something work.”

All in all, Catania says she is most thankful for the show and for her blossoming fitness business, because she can inspire women going through a hard time and remind them not to give up on their dreams.
“It feels good,” she says. “It’s all surreal to me. I don’t consider myself a big deal. Siggy and I are the same on and off camera. Most of my day consists of trying to give back to everybody who gets in touch with me.”
When asked if she would choose to be on the show again knowing what she knows now, Catania doesn’t hesitate.

“I would do it again in a heartbeat,” she says. “I went into it with an idea of what I wanted to get out of it and I got out of it exactly what I wanted. I always do something with everybody else in mind. It’s part of my DNA. That’s what I enjoy. I wanted to reach a lot of people and tell them that even though my husband cheated on me, we are friends 15 years later. It’s part of my story. You don’t die. The show is a platform. It’s the best thing to reach so many people.”

“Don’t fall apart. You don’t have the option to fall apart when you’re a mom.”

Regarding her boss, Bravo producer Andy Cohen, Catania said even he saw a positive effect from the show in her own personality.

“Andy said you are one of the few people who came out positive [on the show],” says Catania. “I grew. I got my mojo back. I got my groove back. I walk differently and I talk differently. Ideally Siggy and I would want our own show…Andy do you hear me?!”

The Quick 10

1. What app do you most use?
Instagram, I’m a stalker.

2. Briefly describe your morning routine.
I wake up under a pile of dogs every single morning, and it’s really hard to get up. Once I scoot out the first thing I do is brush my teeth.

3. Name a business mogul you admire.
Jessica Alba. She’s awesome.

4. What product do you wish you had invented?
The cell phone.

5. What is your spirit animal?
I have this fox that sits on my front steps every few weeks. It doesn’t leave my side and I think it is my spirit animal.

6. What is your life motto?
“Never give up”

7. Name your favorite work day snack.

8. To be successful you must be ___?
“Married to your business”

9. What’s the most inspiring place you’ve been to recently?
Patterson Arts and Science Charter School. It’s a charter school in Patterson where teachers teach out of an abandoned building. There was so much team work, it was such a happy environment.

10. Desert Island. Three things, go.
My rosary, my kids, my dogs.

Belisa Silva

Belisa is an editor with more than 10 years of experience. Prior to SWAAY, she worked as freelance writer, covering lifestyle, fashion and beauty industries. Belisa was a Market Editor at Women's Wear Daily for five years, where she interviewed rockstar business women like Drew Barrymore, Jennifer Lopez and Iman. Belisa also contributes to Cosmetic Executive Women, where she highlights female executives making an impact in the beauty industry.

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