Margaret Josephs almost stepped into the spotlight on The Real Housewives of New Jersey a whole lot earlier in the Bravo hit's run than its current eighth season.
A fan of the show since its inception, in part, because it was highlighting women from her neck of the woods, the franchise's newest addition told E! News that she was contacted by producers about joining the fray way back when Caroline Manzo was spinning off onto her own series after season five. "[They] actually approached me in 2013, we were discussing it last night at dinner, and I couldn't do it that year," she revealed. "It just wasn't great timing." Considering that was the year she divorced first husband Jan Josephs for current hubby Joe Benigno, the hesitation is understandable. After all, allowing Bravo's cameras to capture your life, warts and all, for the world to see is one heck of a commitment.
But 2017 felt like the perfect time for the pigtail enthusiast to convince her family to let her document her life on national television, she told us. "Well, A. I've led many lives by the age of 50, and, at 50, I thought it was a great turning point. I've already had a business for a long time, all my kids are up and out of the house, and I thought this would just be a great opportunity to do something different," she explained. "The truth is, my whole life has been a reality series since birth, legit. You've seen Marge Sr. I thought it was just the next step in my career. I thought it would be fun. I thought it was great to show people that women could be entrepreneurial. I didn't come from the Lucky Sperm Club. I pulled myself up by the boot straps, I've taken a lot of hits, so I thought I was also very relatable. And Jersey could definitely use a blonde, so I thought it was a good idea."
With her mind made up, it was time to get her family on board, something she wasn't able to do with everyone in her life. "Because I'm so out there, and they call me TMI Marge, my whole family knows everything's out there. My husband Joe is very funny. Everybody just acts like themselves, the girls in my office, Marge Sr. They were super excited. Of course, my children, who are not on the show, were not excited," she said. (Margaret has one son, as well as three step-children whom she helped raise, from her first marriage.)
"They were like, 'Um, people know enough about us already. Do you really need to blast it all over TV?' I mean, I got a lecture from my son. 'Who talks about their vagina on TV the first episode?'" she continued. "So my children are extremely private people. I don't discuss their names, I don't discuss their industry. So I have to keep my kids off, but I have so many other family members, including my ex-husband, who are willing to be supportive and go on the show with me, it's fine."
As cameras began rolling on season eight, life quickly began to change for Margaret. Namely, getting used to a lack of spare time. "The adjustment is I run around like a chicken with my head cut off because I also still run my business," she explained. I didn't have as much time for myself. You'd think I have all this time for beauty routines. I don't. That's how my life has changed. I'm actually more stressed, less time, less time to shop, less time to do anything. But I'm enjoying it. It's a great ride."
Of course, then came being involved in her first big Housewives fight, which occurred at the top of the season when the ladies traveled to Boca Raton and Teresa Giudice and Melissa Gorga's cake fight set Siggy Flicker off in a serious way. "First of all, I found the first part entertaining. I thought Melissa and Teresa were hilarious. When I saw Siggy literally having a breakdown about it and crying, because that was really happening, I was in shock," she admitted. "That's why I was like, 'Take it down a notch.' I mean, are you kidding me? Who cries over a freaking cake? I could not believe grown women get upset about things like this, so I was like, ‘Wow, this has never happened with my friends and myself. I've never had this kind of dynamic.'"
Introduced to viewers as a friend of Siggy's, Margaret quickly aligned herself with Teresa, Melissa and Danielle Staub after the shocking turn of events in Boca, putting her at odds with Siggy and her BFF Dolores Catania ever since. Of course, referring to her newfound nemesis as "Soggy Flicker" didn't help things, though she asserts she never meant any actual harm by the nickname.
"I was shocked that she was sensitive. Usually, strong women have thicker skin," she told us. "We were acquaintances, we weren't good friends. We only knew each other from town and things like that. I've been around a very long time in my area, I know a lot of people. I get along with mostly everybody, I make fun of everybody. So no one ever has taken me that seriously. I think she truly took it to heart the wrong way. I apologized. The apology obviously didn't go the way she wanted it to. She wanted me to follow a certain script. I don't know what it was. Kiss her toes, braid her hair? I guess I didn't follow it appropriately, so yeah, I was a little surprised it went that way. But we obviously are two different people who don't see eye to eye."
Of course, the second life-changing experience as a novice Real Housewife begins when the season starts airing, inviting comment from the farthest corners of the internet. "I think I've had an amazing, positive response, which is great. People are writing to me that they relate to certain situations," Margaret admitted. "I've also had some petty responses. People can be so obsessed with pigtails. I always thought it was normal. I never knew I was such a crazy, little oddity, which I think is so funny."
Around her town of Englewood, NJ, Margaret said that reaction from her neighbors has been overwhelmingly positive, as well. "I've lived there since 1991, I literally know everybody. People are very super-excited, all my friends are excited. Everybody loves it. Everyone's like, 'Marge, I saw you on TV. Oh my God, you and Joe!' The funny part is we haven't changed our everyday routine. I eat at Jackson Hole diner in Englewood three time a week for breakfast because my oven's still not working, I just want you to know that. We eat in all of our same restaurants, people are super sweet and positive. They're saying the most amazing things to us. They say, 'The way you are in real life is the way you are on TV,' and I love to hear that because that's the way I act every day."
While her tenure on the series hasn't generated any sort of wild endorsement offers just yet—"I'm waiting for the pigtail extension thing to come out," she said, laughing. "I'm just waiting for that line. A blow-up doll of Marge or something creepy will probably come out"—she has seen a positive influence on her business, the Macbeth Collection. "Christmas orders have improved, people reaching out," Margaret said. "'Where can we get your products?' But we really sell to the mid-tier and the mass. So sales are starting to pick up and we're getting new deals every day."
Along with the seeing the public's reaction to her presence on RHONJ now that the season has been airing, Margaret's also had to relive every awkward moment, including her bizarre diner scene with Siggy where each woman staked their claim as the show's resident Joan Rivers. ("OK and obviously we all do know who it is," she said, laughing.) But so far, she has no regrets about her past behavior.
"It's almost like an out-of-body experience," she said of watching herself back, months later. "You can really almost have the same emotion and you don't realize until you watch it back what exactly everybody looks like, but I'm not embarrassed by anything I have done. I only usually regret what I haven't done. So it's very interesting to watch it back. I still find it entertaining. I'm loving this season. We're here to entertain with the good, bad and the ugly and nothing we do is really that serious, so I thought that diner scene was classic. I loved it."
There's still plenty more to come this season, including tonight's showdown at the Posche fashion show, a trip to Milan—"We suck the life out of Italy," she promised—and her "super-glam" 50th birthday party, but Margaret was already busying herself, looking ahead to her first reunion.
"This is the Super Bowl of Housewives. That's what I call it. That's what I've labeled it. So you have to prepare for the Super Bowl," she explained. "So I've been mentally preparing, I've been taking my notes. I look at the episodes, what is poignant. Yes, I am very prepared for the Super Bowl. I'm going in very strong. I have my dressed picked out. My hair, I don't think I'll wear it in pigtails, spoiler alert. I don't know if I'll be MVP coming out as the rookie, but maybe Rookie of the Year."
[Ed. Note: Margaret and her co-stars sat down for the season eight reunion days after this interview took place.]
As she looked back on her experience thus far, she summed it up for us as such: "It's very interesting. I feel like I'm in high school. You never get out of high school, that's the bottom line."
The Real Housewives of New Jersey airs Wednesdays at 9 p.m. on Bravo.
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