Ten minutes into my call with Ramona Singer, she wants to hop on FaceTime. "Want me to show you my refrigerator?" she asks in complete sincerity after I ask what she, her daughter Avery, and ex-husband Mario are snacking on while self-isolating in Florida. But fans of The Real Housewives of New York City shouldn't be surprised by Singer's openness here—she's been putting it all out there since 2008, when the Bravo show began and catapulted her to reality TV stardom. That's since morphed into full-fledged stardom—"reality" caveat not necessary—because these days people consume the Housewives and HBO prestige dramas with equal, unapologetic fervor.
RHONY has endured as long as it has because the show is more than just a Pinot Grigio-soaked romp of Manhattan's matriarchal glitterati. It offers unflinching—and, at times, uncomfortable—insight into what so many women deal with. Infertility, infidelity, tumultuous friendships, divorce: It's all represented on RHONY. The stakes on TV are higher and more glossy than real life, sure, but the emotional core is always there.
As is Ramona Singer. She's the only woman in RHONY history to be a main cast member for all 12 seasons. The latest begins tonight, April 2, and her signature, take it-or-leave-it honesty is on display like never before. We see that immediately in episode one, when she expresses very real fears about never finding a partner.
I saw this honesty throughout our conversation too, where no topic was off-limits. Truly. She dished on everything: Dorinda Medley, who seems to be the source of major drama this season; Bethenny Frankel, who isn't returning for season 12, something Singer says is for the best; and Mario, her ex-husband, who she's on good terms with now but was understandably not for a few years. How did she end up quarantined with him, you ask? Find out the answer to that and much more in our full, very candid chat, below.
Glamour: In the season premiere, you have an emotional conversation in which you talk about how you're afraid of being alone. What happened there?
Ramona Singer: Well, not feeling alone, because I'm never alone. I'm very social. I had this fear that I won't find a partner who would be compatible for me. Dating is easy for me. I could be in a relationship. But I don't want a relationship. I want the relationship. All of a sudden I was feeling, "Will I ever find that again?"
Can you talk to me a little bit about why you think that conversation bubbled up when it did?
I was hiding from going into my new apartment. I was avoiding it. I sold my apartment in June, and here it was now September, and I only spent five nights in my new apartment. The reality of moving into my new apartment was like, "Oh my God, I am single, I am divorced, I am on my own." I believe staying in my existing family apartment cocooned me and isolated me from facing, "You know what, I'm on my own. I'm a single. I'm an empty-nester with no partner."
What's your story arc like this season? Does it build on that conversation you had in the first episode?
Basically you're going to see me on my journey of [being an empty-nester], what I'm going through, and what I do to try to make it better. You'll have to see if I come out the end feeling better or not. Everyone can relate to that. At that point, I felt lost and had no direction. Every viewer is going to relate, because when something major happens in your life—you lose your job, you lose a husband or a sister or brother—it shakes you to your core. You're like, "Oh my God, what does it mean with everything? Where do I go from here?" I think it was just a huge wake-up call for me. I had a breakdown, to tell you the truth. I had a breakdown. I always have a direction. I always have a purpose. I always have a plan. All of a sudden, I felt lost.
What has being an empty-nester been like for you?
With Avery, thank goodness, we have a close bond. She would say to me, "Mom, do you think everybody at college calls their mom every day? Nobody does. Maybe once a week or once every two weeks." We would call each other every day, FaceTime each other as she's walking to class. Even now I see her once a week. We usually do family dinner nights Monday night or Sunday night. I cook for her, her girlfriends, my friends, or just her and I. We always spend time together, so I'm very lucky that way.
Ramona Singer and Tinsley Mortimer in the new season of The Real Housewives of New York City.
It seems like Dorinda is at the center of a lot of conflict this season. Can you tease anything about that?
Dorinda definitely goes off the rails this season with her temper. She always can be a little hotheaded, but this season, as you can see just in the trailer, she goes off on me, Leah, Luann, Tinsley, and it made us all feel very, very uncomfortable. My deep belief is when someone's acting out in that extreme manner, there's something else really going on. It's not what we're doing. [Maybe] something's bothering her and her life, and she's taking it out on the people she's closest to. We all love and adore Dorinda, so you're going to have to watch the season to see how we deal with it. Can we help her? Do we get to the bottom of it, or not?
What's the dynamic like without Bethenny there?
Everyone's happier. We feel freer, happier, and we can be ourselves more. Listen, I respect Bethenny. She was great for the show, but it's a different show now without her. She was such a strong force that she basically monopolized whatever we were doing. She just took control all the time and didn't allow us to be us. So now there's a different lightness. We don't get dark. There's conflict for sure and there's resolution, but nothing gets dark. I really felt the past few seasons got dark. There's no darkness here. No darkness. But trust me: There's plenty of altercation that's mind-boggling.
You have been doing this for so long, and putting your life out there is not easy. Why do you keep doing it every year? Why do you keep saying yes?
I enjoy it. I think I'm good at it, and I enjoy it. Growing up, I think, in a home where my father was always…I never knew what mood he'd be in—if he had too many drinks, if he'd be throwing dishes at my mother—you learn to shut things out. So when the cameras come, I don't even know they're there. I've had friends film with me, and they're like, "Ramona, how do you live? The cameras are right there." I go, "I don't know, I just ignore them." I don't even notice the cameras. I don't even notice it. I like it. I think I'm good TV because I don't give a shit. I'm me. I'm not playing for the cameras. I'm being who I am. Maybe sometimes I say things I shouldn't say. I'm on the show, so I'm not going to sit there and keep everything in my head. I just say what I'm thinking, and it's good entertainment. I like it.
You do cop to everything on the show.
Absolutely. One of the things I've learned is I may think it's black, you may think it's white, maybe it's gray, but you know what? You have a right to your opinion. If you're very adamant and I upset you because I'm trying to convince you it's black, fine. I'm sorry I upset you, but my intention wasn't to hurt your feelings, and then you move on. Of course, if 10 people tell you the chair is black, then you better listen—not just to me, but the other nine people. That's a different story. You have to communicate with people. How can you know what's going to upset someone unless you tell them something and you find out? I know with Dorinda, she's very sensitive of…she doesn't want to have her husband's death compared to a divorce. So you don't bring that up. With Dorinda, just respect her viewpoint and don't bring it up. That's how you learn about people.
Switching gears a bit: I know you're currently quarantined with Mario in Florida. What has that been like?
Last night he broke out a nice bottle of champagne, and we all made our three separate toasts. Avery's toast was, "I never in a million years thought we'd be together like this as a family after everything that happened." You know what? It's all good.
Did you have reservations about it?
Because I have Lyme disease, besides getting lots of rest and listening to my body, I cannot stress out. Mario and I can sometimes push each other's buttons. I remember having this conversation with him, "Do you promise not to stress me out?" Because sometimes he can get upset about things, go on and on and on about them. That's Mario. I accept that. But he said, "No, I'll be good. I'll be good. If things get bad, you can just go to the Boca Beach Hotel." I get a discount there. Well, guess what? It's a good thing we got along, because they closed the hotel just two days ago.
Have you learned anything from being in close quarters with him? I know you were married for many years, but has this new experience made you learn anything at all?
Mario and I became friends before this situation, obviously, otherwise I couldn't be here. Our relationship has evolved. I'm trying to get this message to people: I don't care why you get divorced, what it's for, but if you have children you have to stay connected in a positive way and let all that stuff go. That's emotional stress. It's not healthy for your system, for your body. So I let everything go. I just let it go. Now when he comes to the city, we have dinner as a family. You can see him filming on the show with me and Avery this season as a family. It's important. People are like, "Maybe you two will get back together again." No, he has his life. I have my life. He doesn't really want to live my life. I don't really want to live his life. But we come together. The fact that we can come together in a crisis and he's still there for me and my daughter is a big thing. He gets a gold medal.
How are you passing the time?
As soon I'm up, Mario has these beautiful protein shakes ready for us that he mixes with fresh vegetables and fruit. Then I like to take a shower and do my hair. I do my skin regimen, which is just Ageless by Ramona. I put on light makeup, a little lipstick, because I want to look good for me. I dress in a pretty workout outfit. We have weights, and I do some weights. Avery works Monday through Friday from 9 A.M.to 6:30 P.M. remotely on the computer and phone because she's in the finance world, and thank goodness she still has a position right now. I'll usually take a walk around the beach just for an hour from 3 to 4. Then around 6:30, I'll take another walk with Avery. We walk along the intercostal, and someone makes dinner. So we have dinner around 8 and then we watch Game of Thrones.
Ramona, Avery, and Mario in 2013
What are your favorite snacks while you quarantine?
Hummus. I like humus with carrots, or hummus and Wheat Thins. We have sliced turkey breast, chicken salad or tuna salad. And, of course, we do eat dessert. My daughter and Mario ate most of the ice cream I just ordered. They go, "One pint is only enough for one person." It's that brand Halo Top. I'm trying to do everything gluten-free. I made banana bread and did it with coconut sugar and almond flour. It was really good. I made that yesterday. We all ate it up fast.
When this is all over or when we get some semblance of normalcy again, what are you most excited to do?
To be the hostess with the mostest! I cannot wait to entertain my groups of 10, 12, 14 friends and have cocktail parties and dinner parties. I have my list already going. I have them all ready. I have my groups of girls and groups of married couples and friends and I'm going to be entertaining once a week, if not twice a week, nonstop at my home.
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.
Christopher Rosa is the staff entertainment writer at Glamour. Follow him on Twitter @chrisrosa92.
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