Monday, February 24, 2014

Aviva Drescher Talks New Memoir, New Season of ‘Real Housewives of NYC’ and More


PopBytes.com:
“When people tell me I’m fake, I know they’re just pulling my leg,” says Real Housewife of New York City Aviva Drescher (@AvivaDrescher) in her opening tagline for the upcoming sixth season of the hit Bravo reality show.

Since making her television debut last season, Drescher has been hard at work writing her memoir, Leggy Blonde. And unlike her new tagline, her debut book is much more serious in tone about her life as an amputee. Amongst other things, the book chronicles how Drescher lost her leg in a freak barn accident as a child, and the various ways that both she and those around her have dealt with that loss throughout her life.

With a book hitting stores next Tuesday and the new season of Housewives premiering on March 11, Drescher fans certainly have a lot to look forward to over the next few weeks. I caught up with the television star and new author about writing her first book, why her’s is an important story to tell, her plans to lobby in the nation’s capital, the juiciness coming up in Housewives, and much more.

ALEX NAGORSKI: February is a busy month for Real Housewives books. In addition to yours, this month sees the release of new books from Beverly Hills’ Brandi Glanville and from Carole Radziwill (check out my interviews with Brandi and Carole about their respective new books), your fellow New York cast mate. Have you already read either of these books yet, and if so, what are your thoughts?
AVIVA DRESCHER: I’ve read Carole’s. I liked it very much and I think it’s completely different from her first book. It doesn’t have anything to do with her first book at all and I think it’s really courageous that she took a stab at writing a novel. I think it’s great.

I really enjoyed Brandi’s first book. Obviously, it was her trying to get revenge on her ex-husband, but I thought it was really good. I hope she does well with her second book too.

So if someone wanted to purchase only one Housewife book this month, what would you tell him or her about why they should pick yours?
Well, I think that Carole’s book is more of a beach read, whereas I think my book can really touch everybody. It’s not just for Housewives viewers. I think it can touch everybody because it shows by various examples how you can get through life’s trials and tribulations.

Everyone’s touched by anxiety, health issues, addiction, divorce, and marriage – whether it’s your own relationships, your parents’, or whoever else’s – everyone gets touched by these things and I touch on all of them.

So I feel like my book has a more of a serious/funny tone to it, but I do think that everyone can relate. Mine’s more of a serious book, whereas Carole’s is more of a beach read. And if you are a Housewives viewer, I think that this is a good way to get to know me without an editing team involved.

That’s a really interesting point. How do you think that this book depicts you differently than the show has?
Well, I think that most of all, it shows that there was definitely a misunderstanding between the camera, the editors, the viewers and me. The show dwelled a lot on the bumps in the road that have happened to me. I think that the book really does show that in fact I don’t dwell on those things. And I think the viewers will see that. People will see it very clearly.

I also think that you see more of my sense of humor in the book. I think that when the camera’s around, I tend to get a little bit, you know, more uptight. But with the book, I have more control. I can be more myself to a certain extent.

There’s a point in the book where you discuss turning to fashion as an outlet to draw attention away from your prosthesis. Fast-forward to today, and you’ve published a memoir that goes into great detail about what its meant for you to be an amputee for the majority of your life. What made you decide to finally want to share your story and why is now the right time to tell it?
Well, I turned 40, and I think that at 40-years-old, you start to think about a lot of things in your life and you get a certain kind of sense of security and maturity about yourself – especially if you have children. It’s a time where you really start to officially grow up, and my growing up meant that I was done hiding. I’m done being ashamed of wearing a prosthesis.

There comes a point where you come to full acceptance – hopefully – in your lifetime. I felt ready at 40, and with the show falling in my lap, I felt that was an opportunity to do it. And I couldn’t just put it out a little bit because everything is so full force on the show.

It was a combination of being 40, having 4 children, feeling like a mamma bear, and feeling like a real complete grownup who was self-aware and secure. So it was important for me to come onto the show without really having anything to be ashamed of. Because I think that when you go on a reality show, you can’t really have any skeletons in your closet.

Yeah, I imagine that wouldn’t be very easy to do.
Yeah. So it was kind of a whole combination of like, “Okay. I’m going to go on a show. I’m 40. I am who I am. This is who I am and I’m not, and I’m going to be proud of it, and I’m going to use whatever obstacles are in my way to help other people.” And the helping other people part really helps me to not worry about any sort of uptightness that I had about my leg or my accident.

One chapter that really stood out to me was the one in which your parents took you to India at 15-years-old to see someone that they believed was the “avatar of a healing spirit” and could grow your foot back. You, however, did not share your parents’ faith in this man’s alleged abilities. What type of effect, then, did this trip have on you as a teenager when your parents obviously didn’t get the result that they were hoping for from it?
It just made me realize that parents are certainly not perfect. As children, we look up at our parents and we think they’re gods. Even when we hate them, we still think that they are all knowing. And I think that that was really my first step towards adulthood and separating from my parents.

In some ways, my parents were overprotecting, and in some ways, they were very, “get on with it, move on with it, do everything like everybody else.” I think that as a teenager, you begin to separate from your parents. So seeing this craziness that they brought me into not come to fruition definitely led me to being more independent. I think everybody’s parents are a little bit crazy in their own ways, but maybe my parents were a little bit more crazy than most.

Speaking of parents, the book also discusses your mother’s alcoholism and how you dealt with the tragedy of her early passing. What advice would you give to someone experiencing a similar type of grief today?
You know, they say alcohol is as addictive as heroine. And to live with someone who’s an alcoholic is so enraging and so painful. The extent where my mother went with it was just one of the most horrific things in my life. Alcoholism took my mother’s life from me and deprived my children of her, my father of her, and my family of her. Every day that I raise my children, I think about my mom. I think that the only way to deal with alcoholics is with a very, very severe tough love and that would be the message that I would get out.

I always second-guess and say, “Well, if we were tougher, maybe she wouldn’t have gotten to that point.” Now look, rationally, I don’t think that we are responsible at all for her death, but the message that I would say is, “throw them out of your house. Take away the keys. Take away their money.” Make them hit rock bottom before it’s too late, so that the alcoholic can want on their own to get the help that they want. Because the drug is so strong and unless they are on the floor naked and aware of it, they’re not going to get help. And by the time my mom was so bad, her brain was already going from the alcohol. She didn’t even know she was hitting rock bottom. Do you understand what I’m saying?

Yes, absolutely.
Someone else going through this needs to really, really get knowledge and get in there. Don’t sweep it under the carpet. To someone who lives with someone with alcoholism, I would say, “don’t blame yourself. It’s not your fault.” We’re all responsible for our own actions, we all have to deal with the consequences of them, and only alcoholics can really help themselves.

This disease really affects and seethes into everybody around it, not just in the way that an alcoholic is disruptive and not a functional person in society, but it psychologically affects the people around you. So I would say don’t feel guilty and just remember how that person was before they got lost in the alcoholism. Remember them for the great person that they were, not for what they became.

I really loved the theme of survival throughout the book. You write about a great amount of loss – not just in terms of your leg and your mother, but also of past relationships (including your first marriage, Harry). Each time, you learn from your experiences in what seem like very universally applicable ways. Is there any particular message or experience that you want your readers to take away with them after they’ve put the book down?
I would say as long as there’s breath, there’s life. Life is very short and you’ve got to get as much joy out of it as you can. You just can’t know what’ll happen from one day to the next, so you gotta keep on loving the best you can and taking the high road – which, by the way, brings great pleasure. Enjoy every day to the best of your ability, and just remember that no matter how many times you get kicked, if you’re breathing, you can enjoy this life. You can find enjoyment out of this life. That’s what I would say.
And obviously when I say, “take the high road,” remember that on television I’m not being paid to take the high road. So I can’t really always do that on television. But in life, I do believe in taking the high road as much as possible.

What have you personally found to be the most common stigma about amputees?
When people say things like, “are you okay?” or “can you walk?” The most common stigma is that we can’t physically do what two-legged people can do. And that’s just entirely untrue. It’s just untrue. I mean, granted sometimes wearing six-inch heels is a little bit more of a challenge to me than, you know, it is for a two-legged person, but I can still do it. So I think that’s the most common stigma –that we can’t physically do everything that everybody else can do. And we can.

Another thing you mention in the book is your array of phobias, which was also the focus of a few discussions on last season of Housewives. What’s one that your fans might be surprised to read about?
They’ll probably be surprised about my passion for health, which to some degree, I guess, translates into a little bit of fear of things that are unhealthy. I’m definitely trying not to be fearful of things that are unhealthy, but I do avoid them.

Like, if I walk into my apartment and my babysitter’s making chicken fingers and she’s putting aluminum foil into my toaster oven, I’ll say, “Can you please not cook it in aluminum foil?” Listen, maybe it’s a phobia and maybe it’s a little kooky. But by the same token, over the past few days, there’s been a dangerous chemical found in many bread ingredients.
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