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Dina Manzo on Her Return to The Real Housewives of New Jersey, Family Drama and Moving to RHONY

Dina Manzo, The Real Housewives of New Jersey Alex Martinez/Bravo

To quote Dina Manzo, "The bitch is back."

The reality star is returning to Real Housewives of New Jersey as a main cast members for season six after departing the show during season two. Her arrival marks a turning point in Real Housewives of New Jersey history as the series undergoes a cast shakeup. Melissa Gorga and Teresa Giudice are still there, but gone are original cast members Caroline Manzo (Dina's sister) and Jacqueline Laurita (Dina's sister-in-law), and Kathy Wakile will no longer be fulltime. Along with Dina comes three new faces: Nicole Napolitano, Amber Marchese and Teresa Aprea. So is she back now after all these years?

"Obviously I've been asked back in the past, and it was always like a big red light and this time it kind of felt natural. I was hanging around with Teresa again, organically, the summer I was asked back, and it just felt right, and I usually follow my gut," Dina told E! News.

The Real Housewives star tells all—well, almost all—in the conversation below.

MORE: Get to know the new RHONJ ladies

Did you have any ground rules before returning?
Ground rules? [Laughs.] I don't think Bravo lets you put any ground rules, last time I checked. I wish there was ground rules.

Just wondering if you said, "I'll come back, but I won't show this."
Well, no. We keep our lives open as it pertains to what you're going through. The one thing I didn't want to discuss—you'll see in the first episode I do like an eye roll when they ask me about my sister.

Right.
It wasn't towards my sister, it was, like, just don't ask me because I'm not going to talk about it. I didn't like being talked about when I wasn't on and I'm sure they wouldn't like it either. So, that's the kind of one thing I said I wasn't going to talk about.

Well, there goes one of my questions. Are things any different between you guys?
I'm just done talking about it. I think the more we talk about it in the press, the worse it's going to get. I'm kind of done. This week I'm doing the press junk and that's it. I don't want to mention it again because I think enough people have been through it and now it's time to stop talking about it.

MORE: Kathy talks about her RHONJ exit

The Real Housewives of New Jersey Alex Martinez/Bravo

You've said in the past, after your two seasons that the show was getting toxic. Was it hard to go back to the show again after seeing all that happen?
Yeah, but I think the fans—the viewers and the network—were ready for a change. I kind of believe them when they say we need to go back to that feeling of season one, kind of fun and a little bit of drama, but nothing that hurts a family and got too dark.

Have you learned anything by doing the show? About yourself? Life?
Yeah, of course. I mean, I don't think it's from doing the show, I just think it's normal to grow as you get older, especially the phase I'm in in my life. Watching myself back on TV, sure I wasn't proud of a lot of the things I said in season one and going into two, but I can't regret it because I was being real. That's the best you can do. I think the biggest mistakes Housewives as a whole make is trying to cover up what they're really feeling. Because eventually it all comes out and you look like a fool. Say what's on your mind, what you feel—at least you won't get caught up in something you shouldn't.

READ: Scoop on what goes down this season of RHONJ

What was the best part about being back?
There were a lot of fun times filming, but I think the best part is being able to use the platform for good. Our premiere party this Sunday, we're giving it all to charity, every penny, and it feels good to be able to do that. This whole instant kind of fame—you have to stay grounded and you have to make sure to use it for good. I really like that part, I like that my struggles this season will help people going through the same thing I'm going through and that's what it's all about.

How is Grandma Wrinkles?
She's a wreck! She's got cauliflower ear and a big skin tag. She's aging before her time. I don't know if it was the divorce from Giggy or what did it. She's still a lover, but she's definitely older looking if that were possible. She has a little brother, Botox, now to keep her young.

I was happy to see her behind you in one of the confessionals.
Actually, that was Botox. He's into kind of everything. Grandma doesn't leave Lexi's bed unless she's got to eat or poop. [Laughs.]

NEWS: Meet the new Real Housewives of New Jersey cast

Nicole Napolitano, Teresa Aprea, Dina Manzo, Melissa Gorga Jeff Daly/Bravo

Speaking of Lexi, I saw her Yearbook quote
Oh god.

With the Danielle Staub quote.
[Laughs.]I told her not do it! She showed it to me and I'm like, "You're kidding? Do not do that." I thought it was funny, but not a lot of people get our sense of humor and I didn't want to wake the beast, you know? [Laughs.] I'm like, "Don't do it!" then she went ahead and did it. But, whatever. You've got to take it. I think even Danielle took it as it was, it was a silly joke.

Yeah, she said something on Twitter.
We have a twisted sense of humor not everyone gets, so I was just hoping that everyone would find the humor in it. But it is what it is.

This happens in virtually every Housewives show: Somebody gets upset and leaves the dinner table and somebody else follows. Is there any art form to that? Do you have to wait a certain amount of time to get up and follow them?
[Laughs.] No, in the times that I've done it—I'm usually the one that does because I'm sensitive to people's emotions. Any time I've done it, you know with the table flip and this season there was definitely a time, it's been real. Especially for me, I never like to see anyone being the only person on that side of the fence. Even if they're wrong, I'll go by their side. So, I can only speak for myself and each time it wasn't like "OK, this will look good if I do this," or, "Let me wait three beats to make it dramatic." It was kind of automatic. I just jumped up.

MORE: Dina and Melissa dish on the new ladies

Anything you want to add about this season?
Yeah, I really hope the people that stopped watching after a while, when things got—I hope they come back. It's—entertaining is the word because the new girls don't know how hysterical they are. You know how Teresa doesn't know how funny she is? They're kind of like her, but even bigger because there's two of them, the twins. I just hope people tune in again and get back into the feeling of season one where it was just like hysterical to watch and kind of dress like them for Halloween and have a good time with it.

Would you ever do an All-Star Real Housewives?
I actually asked Andy Cohen if I could—I have an apartment here in Manhattan and I'm in the Hamptons for the summer, so I'm like, "I should just switch over to New York," and he was like "No!" [Laughs.] So I don't think the network would be down with that, but I think it would be amazing.

Real Housewives of New Jersey premieres Sunday, July 13, at 8 p.m. on Bravo.

(E! and Bravo are both part of the NBCUniversal family.)

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