Margaret Josephs Spills The Tea On RHONJ - Exclusive Interview

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The following article includes mentions of sexual harassment.

What came first: the chicken or the egg, the Real Housewife or the kind of hair-pull that gets you indefinitely banned from a country club, reality TV or Margaret Josephs' propensity for TMI? Either way, three minutes into our breezy afternoon Zoom call, it's clear that Josephs — whose signature hairstyle is twisted into braids — is exactly like she seems on television. The Bravolebrity is an open book, which is a prerequisite for someone with a successful memoir, but as she tells Nicki Swift, definitely elicits eye rolls from her loved ones.

Josephs first launched her career in the thick of the 1990s fashion industry. It was the era of "heroin chic," back when Kate Moss was galivanting around nightclubs and the opioid crisis was barely a headline. Decades before #MeToo, the reality star navigated the omnipresent pressure to accept the industry's rampant sexism. It helped her toughen up quickly, a trait she used to launch a multimillion dollar business from her kitchen table and, years later, star on "The Real Housewives of New Jersey."

On-screen, Josephs is known as the voice of reason in the absence of Caroline Manzo, but she still knows the value of a well-placed prank or thrown cocktail glass. In Josephs' world, people don't always get what they deserve, but sometimes your husband gets thrown into the pool. In this exclusive interview, Margaret Josephs reveals all — from her early career and marriage struggles to her explosive feud with former co-star Danielle Staub.

Margaret Josephs reveals her favorite RHONJ moment

I know I have my favorite "Real Housewives of New Jersey" moments, but what was your favorite moment that you've done?

I mean, one of my favorites, watching it back I realize, is the pool push. Because I never realized it was going to be such an iconic moment, which I think is so hysterical. And when I said [to Danielle Staub], "Your husband's in the pool," I don't even remember saying it. And when I spoke to Andy [Cohen], he goes, "Marge, when you said, 'Your husband's in the pool,' it was so funny." I go, "Oh, that's great," and I didn't remember it till I saw the scene saying that. So, I think it's so funny, because when I watch it back, I'm like, "Oh my God, that is funny."

I was actually going to say that's literally my favorite moment. I have a couple, with Teresa Giudice flipping the table in Season 1. When they all had like an actual fistfight at a baptism. That was pretty crazy, but the pool one actually isn't that crazy, because I feel like it's a pretty low-stakes way to bother someone.

It is.

'Your husband's in the pool,' a play-by-play

It was so iconic. I just wanted to know, what were you thinking in the actual moment when you pushed Marty Caffrey into the pool?

Listen. We were already in an argument, and he was saying rude things to [my husband], Joe [Benigno]. So, there was a pool that I was like, "You know what? This guy's an a**hole. They're standing here. ... He really annoys me, he's definitely going in the pool" — in my head.

He was saying such hostile things about me. It had elevated to a place where I was just like, I go, "Joe don't ever hit him. Don't punch him." You know? But he was making up stories, so I was like, "Marty." ... I pushed him, but his leg got stuck on the step, and then Joe just gave him the final push, and I was like, "Oh, he's so deserving."

His phone was on him, his watch, everything. And I was like, "That's what he gets." Oh, it just felt so good. It was just like the icing on the cake to just stick it to them, but I happened to like Marty after he got rid of Danielle [Staub].

Margaret Josephs explains her explosive Season 10 fight with Danielle Staub: 'She was just so sick'

I want to get into relationship with Danielle Staub a little bit, because the season after that, you guys had that insane fight, where she destroyed that $500 candle and started dragging you around the room by your ponytail.

Yes.

It was so shocking to me, and Vulture listed as one of their 100 most memorable moments from the franchise. I actually don't think that one was memorable in a good way.

No.

That was like way too much and kind of scary. She seemed totally out of control. So, when that was happening, can you give me a play-by-play of what you were thinking?

Yeah. She caught me off guard. I didn't know, because she got me from behind. We were already done arguing, but I thought she was going to be physical with me, because she had pushed me a few times, and that's why I poured the water on her. Just like, get her away from me, which was probably not the best move. I should have just left, but I was like, "I'm not leaving a scene or an argument." That's not my thing. I argue with my words to the end, but she was getting close into my face. I was like, "I'll just pour water, get her away from me," because I was so livid at that point because she was in my space.

She, I think, was so irritated. As you guys could see, that happened after she had discussed it with Teresa [Giudice], which I never knew until the end of the season. That's a fact. We had no idea, and production hadn't listened to the audio until Danielle said it. They didn't know why either, because they don't really listen to audio unless they're filming it. It wasn't an important scene. They were worried about me and the other girls. So, we were cleaning up. She got me from behind, and I didn't know what happened.

It was a weave. It was a hair piece on my head. She had grabbed it, and I was like, "What's going on?" I felt something pulling me, and she was just so sick. I didn't even know what happened. It happened so fast, and then when I realized what was going on, I was like, "This isn't my life. This isn't for me. I am not doing this. I don't know people like this."

I've never had a physical attack like that. I was very taken aback, and I was like, "This is just not going to happen, and I'm not going to be friends with something like this. I'm not going to work with someone like this." She's unstable.

Yes, the rumors about Danielle Staub's exit are true

Yeah. That was a lot. Did it hurt?

Yeah. Because I didn't expect it, she snapped my neck back, so it was more like a whiplash kind of situation. In the moment, I didn't really feel it. I was caught off guard, but the next morning, I was like, "Crap." You know like when you get hit with your car and you don't realize it and then it is just like ...? It was one of those. Yeah, I had whiplash.

That's awful. I know there was a lot of drama after that, with her saying she retired. Then she said all these things about Andy Cohen. There were rumors about how no one wanted to film with her anymore, which — if they were true — it's hard to blame anyone. I thought it was actually quite beautiful how her story arc began with the weave pull from Jaqueline Laurita's daughter and ended with your weave pull.

I know! Crazy.

So where do you guys stand now?

I mean, there's no relationship whatsoever, obviously. I feel sorry for her. She lives in a world that's not reality, unfortunately. She makes up her own reality in her head, has her own perspective on things. She was convinced she was staying in the house, and she was buying it from Marty [Caffrey], and she had to move. We have no idea where she lives. She lives in some dream world. I feel sorry for her. That's it.

Was there any truth to the rumors that people didn't want to film with her after that incident?

Yeah, of course. No one wants to work with someone who is so unstable. I mean, that was 1,000% true. No one. I think Bravo doesn't tolerate. There's a zero violence policy. That's just not the show it is. That was truly a violent moment. It crossed the line. Some people were like, "Oh, but you pushed her husband in a pool, that was violent." Pushing someone in a pool is something that happens at kids' birthday parties, right? It's hijinks. It's fun. Attacking someone from behind, dragging them, it's a different thing.

Danielle Staub got the 'pony,' but Margaret Josephs got the 'stallion'

I totally felt that, too, which is why I thought your moment was really funny and nice, and hers was just too much and really kind of scary. Anyway, I want to talk about her move, because I read that you got her couch through a series of behind-the-scenes moves.

Oh yeah. As Dolores [Catania] calls it, it's the ultimate flimflam, because Marty [Caffrey] had her removed from the premises, and it was all his furniture. Her house was staged and everything else, and it was only a mile from me, and I have lived in this area literally 30 years. ... It was just very, kind of, almost serendipitous.

She had bought the house staged from a friend of mine. First, it started with these horse photos that are eight feet by eight feet. When she moved in, I went there with her. I said, "Hey, are you buying everything in this house staged?" And she said, "I want that." I go, "Because if you don't want those horse pictures, I want them." She's like, "No, I want them. I want them."

Well, when she left, they were Marty's. He was selling them for $500, and I wanted them from the beginning. They're like $5,000 pictures. So, I said to Dolores, "He's not going to sell them to me," but Dolores knew his new girlfriend. So, I Venmoed Dolores the money, she Venmoed the girlfriend, and Joe [Benigno] and I went over there with the truck. He wasn't home. The realtor was there, who I'm friends with, and then I saw the couch. I was like, "Ooh, how much is the couch?" It was $300. It was this great settee. I was like, "Oh, I'll reupholster it."

So then, I was like, "I'll take this settee, too." ... She caught wind of that. I mean, all hell broke loose. I mean, it was all over the place.

What did she do when she found out?

Oh, she sent an attorney letter to Marty — absolutely went crazy. Marty found it extremely entertaining. It was everywhere. Everyone's like, "She's accusing me of stealing it." I paid good money for it. Not a lot, but it was really a fire sale. Marty just wanted to get rid of everything, and I paid for it. I love a bargain.

That sounds like a really good deal, honestly. $300 for a couch is unheard of.

It was very funny. The ultimate joke was she might have got my pony, but I got the stallion at the end. Dolores said that.

Margaret Josephs has no problems being TMI – especially when rock stars are involved

I want to talk to you about your book, "Caviar Dreams, Tuna Fish Budget: How to Survive in Business and Life." You dove into some really sensitive topics — your first marriage with Jan Josephs, was it an affair with a member of Foreigner?

Yes. I don't call it an affair. I call it a fling. I mean, an affair goes on a few times. This was more of like a one night stand, but it was a lot of groupie moments. I was like, "Totally hot guy, Kelly Hansen." Just my type: skinny, a** smaller than mine, amazing voice — and it was a great fling. Great fling. Who doesn't love a guy with a good voice, right? Hot blooded moment, I always say.

Absolutely. So with that, you said your first husband didn't know about it when you wrote the book. What was it like being so vulnerable and divulging these secrets to the public before the people in your inner circle even knew about them?

I think my ex-husband probably expects that from me, but he really knew everything else. He was like, "Ugh, Marge. Typical, TMI. I don't know why you have to be that way." We're very close, but that was my life, and that's what it was. I had other secrets of sexual harassment that I didn't even tell my mother until I had written a book that happened to me when I was much younger — certain things you just don't discuss and certain things you want to keep secret, like a fling with a little rock star.

I think it was a fun little tidbit just to put in and [it was] entertaining to my people who follow me. He was a little agitated, my ex-husband. Not about that, but just about other stuff that I had revealed about our relationship. He was like, "Margery, you're way too much TMI," but what are you going to do? I said, "I didn't even put in every single thing." I mean, if I put in every single thing, it really would've been a bestseller.

The RHONJ star on her relationship with her stepchildren: 'It's a work in progress'

Part of your book focused on your new marriage with Joe Benigno. I actually believe that when things are meant to be, they're meant to be, and you've got to go for it, even if it's maybe not the best start.

I agree.

I know that part of that affected your relationship with your step-kids. Have you guys managed to come to an understanding?

You know, I think we're a little better. Like I wrote in the book, I raised my three stepchildren. They were 8, 14, and 16 when I got together with my ex-husband. They always lived with us full-time. We had a son together, who obviously I'm extremely close with, who's now 25.

My step-kids are much older. They're 46 at this point, 44, and 40. When we got divorced, they were much older.

With my son, my middle stepson, it's definitely better. My stepdaughter, things aren't amazing. I think there were issues when I even got in a situation when they were much littler, because of things with their mom. But you know, they're all happy. They're successful. They're all close. All my kids are close, so that's what makes me happy. I think it's a work in progress still. I think life is very complicated.

Your biological son is never on TV or anything like that. Is there anything that you want the world to know about him?

Just that he's amazing. He thinks his mother is TMI. We're extremely close. He's a great son and just a great human, and I'm happy that he chooses to stay private. I think that's what it is, and I think all my kids really choose to stay private, including Joe's children. They all have a separate life, and they didn't choose this life. I chose this life, and I can't really throw them into it.

The one thing Margaret Josephs would've changed about her first marriage

With all that stuff you spoke about in your first marriage, is there anything that you would have done differently if you could go back and do it again?

I think I probably would've left sooner, knowing what I know now. It does hurt a lot of people. I mean, obviously there's always collateral damage. But yeah, I think I would've just left sooner and been more upfront about things. No one ever thinks what's going to happen happens. Life is a whirlwind, and you can't change the progression of it.

I never planned on getting divorced when I met my husband. I was madly in love. I could still say marrying my first husband was one of the top five best moments in my entire life, that day. I still look at it. I cry if I watch the wedding video. I adore and love my ex-husband very much. He's the father of my kids. We're great friends. He's like having a crazy uncle. I always say that to him, but people change.

Hurting him and hurting my family was very upsetting to me, but ultimately, if you as a person are not happy, you can't make anybody else happy around you. And you can't sacrifice your whole life for everybody else. And my children were grown, and I think that's really what it is.

That's such a good perspective.

Thank you.

How Margaret Josephs started a lifestyle empire from her kitchen

I want to start talking to you about your business. That is so inspiring to me. You started Macbeth Collection from your kitchen. Can you talk about that?

Yes. I was always in the garment center, a dress designer. I had my son. It was great being a mom, but women are multifaceted. People are multifaceted. Even though it was fulfilling, it wasn't my creative outlet. I needed something else to do. So it was like, "Oh, what else am I going to do? Let me start a side business, let me do something."

So, I was with a girlfriend, and I was always designing prints and patterns. ... So I said, "Oh, we're doing decoupage. There's no creative storage solution." So, we started something at the kitchen table. We were decoupaging buckets, and they were cute, and they're great for kids toys. [My friend] goes, "All right, you're the salesperson, you go."

I went to a great store in my town — Cradle & All — in Englewood. I went down the street, and it sold out in two days. The woman's like, "Oh, you're totally onto something." So we made more for there.

We're doing it at the kitchen table. I had help at the time, my nanny. We're all making this stuff, and I put my name on the New York gift show, which was where all the retailers had gone, and it was just funny. We showed up very like a homemade little company, and we got close to $100,000 in orders the first year. It was very funny. I was like, "Oh my God, what are we going to do? We're buying our buckets at Home Depot," but we just figured it out as we went along in all different shapes.

If you Google Macbeth Buckets, you could see it all still, like pictures on the internet. We were on Oprah's Favorite Things twice, and in her book, on the O List, and in her magazine. We were in every retailer, because they were monogramable. They were fun. At first, they were shabby chic, and then they were very clean.

Then I got into licensing, and then I'm still in licensing. I had meetings this morning doing it, where we're doing a curtain line. We have a beauty brand at Walmart of makeup brushes and beauty blenders. So, [I've] been doing it a long time, 20 years.

Margaret Josephs reveals the dark side of the early '90s fashion industry: 'I didn't know how to handle it'

In your book, you spoke about coming up in the fashion industry in the '90s and how it was before the time of #MeToo, and there was a lot of pressure to do things you might not have wanted to do. I know the Housewives were really, in my opinion, quite harsh about what you felt like you were forced to do.

I agree.

I just wanted to know if you could dive deeper into what it was like to be a woman building a career during that time.

Yes. Listen. My mother, even though she had faced sexual harassment, it was never a discussion going into the workforce to be careful or something could happen to you. So, of course, I didn't know how to handle it, and it was almost expected.

Even when I was an intern, I had written in the book, at B. Altman — the CEO of the company, I was working in his office. He was coming on to me. I didn't know how to handle it. I didn't say yes right away. I said no endless times. It was the pressure. It was the feeling guilty. It was like, "All right. If I do this once, I'll shut him up. I won't lose my job." It was a frightening experience that happened there.

The Bravo star on navigating sexism in her early career: 'There was an unwritten rule'

Margaret Josephs (continued): Then when I went into the garment center, it was again. The first time, it was someone in a position of power. Not knowing how to handle it. Not being able to tell anybody. Knowing that you're afraid it's going to ruin your reputation, or I think, "Did I bring this upon myself?" Made to feel in that position. It's someone who has power over your financial wellbeing, and you feel vulnerable. And being someone in your early 20s and not knowing how to deal with it and no one spoke of it. It was almost like an unwritten rule, and there was much more sexual energy in the workplace at that point.

I remember my bosses. A girl would come in. They'd see them on the camera. The camera [person] says, "Oh, check her out. Look at her t*ts. She has the best t*ts." Everything was about that. Work was built around it. Especially the garment center, a very big sexual energy. It was very sex, drugs, and rock and roll.

I'm not saying it wasn't a fun. There was a lot of fun times, and it wasn't just about that. It wasn't me constantly feeling uncomfortable, but there was an unwritten rule. It wasn't just happening to me. Even at my book signing, it was so crazy. A woman who I used to work with came to my book signing, stood on line, and said the same guy who I had written about in the book did the same thing to her. And other people had come forward to me. We never spoke about it before. The same thing had happened to them.

That's so upsetting.

Yeah. It's so upsetting, and we had worked together, and none of us spoke about it, and that they thought it only happened to them.

I started my career in the music industry, and I found that it was exactly the same kind of feeling as what you've described, which is why I think I relate to it so much.

I'm sorry, and look how young you are, and it's still going on.

Margaret Josephs shares advice for her 22-year-old self

So, I want to know what piece of advice you would give your 22-year-old self if you could go back into that phase of your career, where it was so tough?

Yes. I would say don't be intimidated. Speak up. Be confident in yourself. Be strong, and you have a voice, and it's okay to say no. You're going to be okay. You could tell someone, and everything won't be shattered, and it won't be over.

I think that's what it was. There's no shame. You didn't do this. You didn't bring this upon yourself, and you do feel that way. I think women are made to feel that way. "You're too sexual. You asked for it. Why are you flirtatious? Why are you this? You gave an indication," and I think we're made to feel that way.

I agree with you, and then at the same time, if you're not flirty, and you're not fun, then you're nasty.

Yeah, and you're a b**ch. Lighten up, you know? I mean, listen, you know how many times I heard, "What do you have your period? What are you, in a bad mood?" I was like, "What?" Like, you're never allowed to have an off day and something was wrong with you.

Yes, I completely agree. On a lighter note, you've overcome it all, and you're extremely successful.

Thank you.

After SkinnyGirl and TipsyGirl, Margaret Josephs is the SoberGirl

What's next for your business?

I think next for my business, I've been in licensing a very long time. In licensing, you get paid on royalty, which is great. I still have a team and a staff that I lay out money for, but you don't have a big risk. The reward is still great, but not tremendous, so we're actually starting our own mocktail line called Soiree — Soiree your way.

It's also inclusive, because everyone knows I don't drink. I mean, if I have a drink, it's like a few times a year — once or twice a year to celebrate something, or if the girls pressure me once in a while on the show. They're like, "Stop being a party pooper," but everybody knows me, that I don't drink on the show, because I have a headache, and my mother drank growing up. It's an elevated adult beverage. You can use it as a mixer, as well. 

So, I want to own something again. I've been working on this awhile, and it's a lot of fun. I know so many people go in the beverage space, but it's always a spiked drink. We're doing a not spiked drink. [It] can be spiked.

The RHONJ star reveals why she doesn't like to drink

I really like that. Do you have any idea when it's going to come out?

We were going to lunch at BravoCon, but now BravoCon's not happening. We're trying to do it for fourth quarter or definitely for dry January, and you know what? People are made to feel guilty if they don't drink or that it's awkward or like, "Why don't you drink?" Everybody, you're always ordering like a diet soda, or I always order an iced tea or a cranberry juice and club soda. But you know, now this is something that isn't like that, that tastes like a great drink.

And it's not like a faux drink either, but we're doing great [flavors]. ... We have a watermelon basil margarita. We have a cucumber splash, which is like cucumber ... elderflower and mint. We have a coconut flavor and we have ... passion fruit, rose, and guava. So it's all elevated, sophisticated flavors that an adult would want to drink and that would also taste good spiked.

That's amazing. I totally love that, because I don't drink often because it just makes me tired.

Yeah, exactly. I'm like a party pooper. If I have a drink, I get a horrible headache. I'm no fun, and I feel like you feel like s**t the next morning. I'm convinced that's why I have a good memory, and I'm always like lucid on the show and could remember everything.

Maybe that's why you seem like the most lucid person on the show.

Yeah, I am. That's what I always am — the most lucid!

Margaret Josephs' best fashion advice for those on a 'tuna fish budget'

You're truly self-made. You've experienced everything, which means at one point you probably didn't have a huge budget. So, what is the one piece of fashion advice you'd give someone who is on a budget?

Fashion advice on a budget. Okay. Two things. I mean, you don't have to have a lot of money to look elevated. No matter what it is. You could dress very plain and have a great accessory. I have like a few pieces of advice to look expensive. Right?

Great sunglasses always make you look elevated. Zara, great place to shop. They knock off every high-end brand. I buy a ton of stuff at Zara. Everyone's like, "Where'd you get that?" I'm like, "Zara."

If you do any investing, I think shoes. Shoes always give away a look of an outfit for some reason. I feel like great shoes really — and shoes last forever, if you take good care of them. So great shoes are a great investment. I think like accessories, and accessories aren't that expensive. Great hats, sunglasses always elevate a good look, but I think Zara on a budget. I mean, can I tell you, Zara? Amazing.

I love Zara, and that's really good advice. One last thing, because I'm from Jersey. I have to ask, Taylor ham or pork roll?

Oh, Taylor ham. Joe [Benigno] calls in Taylor ham all the time. He always gets Taylor ham, egg, and cheese. I mean, nonstop. Who doesn't love a Taylor ham? I mean, granted, I'm a fat water rat the next day after I have it with the salt, but Taylor ham, all the time.

You can catch Margaret Josephs on Bravo's "The Real Housewives of New Jersey" and pick up her memoir, "Caviar Dreams, Tuna Fish Budget: How to Survive in Business and Life," at a bookstore near you.