Reality TV stars may not seem like the most likely choices for college lecturers, but that was just who MC welcomed for a surprise talk last Thursday, Sept. 12. The sounds of girls screaming filled the room as Caroline Manzo and her not-so-bad-on-the-eyes sons (of The Real Housewives of New Jersey fame) entered Smith auditorium to talk to students about all facets of their lives.
The lecture began with Gabrielle Occhiogrosso, Assistant Director of Student Activities, introducing the trio by siting each family member’s many accomplishments. This included Caroline’s description as a “strong family woman,” and the business ventures of both sons, Albie and Christopher, who help run The Brownstone, the family’s renowned event hall in NJ. They also work with her uncle on their company, blk., a beverage that is marketed as “black water” but also has additional health benefits.
“You know, this is weird for me because about five years ago my Thursdays were always here at Manhattan College,” Albie said to the audience, which erupted in a roar. He explained how he went to college at Fordham University and dated an MC girl.
The talk was not a traditional one where the speakers gave a pre-written lecture. Instead, it was in more of an interview style, where Occhiogrosso asked questions and the three responded.
“I loved the setup of the talk because it was more like a talk show than a speech so it had a much more relaxed atmosphere,” junior mechanical engineering major Ilena DeRose said. “We were all interacting like we were in a living room, laughing and talking.”
Occhiogrosso’s questions ranged from typical ones like “what did you do this summer?” and “what’s your favorite movie?” (Caroline’s is “Gone with the Wind”, Albie’s is “The Little Rascals”, Christopher’s is “Goodfellas”) to more substantial ones like “how has life changed from being on the housewives?” Students got the full appreciation for who the reality TV stars really were, and the mother and sons had a playful banter the whole way through, making it an entertaining spectacle for all.
“I thought it was hysterical,” DeRose continued. “I have never watched the show before so I didn’t know who they were but after listening to them talk I felt like they were part of the Manhattan family. I didn’t see them as celebrities anymore but just as normal people.”
“It was great to see that the way the Manzos act on TV is how they actually are in person,” junior Faith Wagner added. “They had such a great bond and were fun and entertaining to listen to.”
The family shared their personal stories about their lives in and out of the show, which is currently in its fifth season.
Caroline even told a story about being able to get into the Playboy Mansion and meet Hugh Hefner, one of her husband’s dreams. She said it was her most star-struck experience.
Caroline also just wrote her first book, “Let Me Tell You Something,” and brought signed copies for all of the students to take with them.
“I just wrote about all of the questions that I’m asked constantly and answered them with the stories of my life,” she said. “I’m not a psychologist; I’m just somebody that’s been through it all. It’s just my own view on life and it really is, I hope, an empowering book.”
Occhiogrosso then asked Caroline to talk about how she has had such a long-lasting and successful marriage. She responded by sharing some important advice with the majority of the audience.
“First of all it’s about mutual respect, and I’m going to say this because there’s about 97 percent ladies here, but girls, don’t ever let a man walk all over you.
“You have to find a man that respects you and yes, you will grow together, but embrace your individuality. Meaning you let each other to grow as individuals because then you will be stronger as a couple.”
The talk ended, like the others, with a Q&A session so students could ask their own questions and then take photos. The student questions included specifics about the show like “how is your relationship with Theresa?” and of course, to the boys, “are you two single?” (yes and yes).
“I was really happy with MC’s choice of speakers for the week,” sophomore Stephen Fertelmes said. “Caroline Manzo and her two sons were awesome choices for speakers. They were engaging, funny and informative and I’m so thankful that I was able to meet them. I hope we get more speakers like them in the future.”