Those sultry good looks, that raspy voice and the hair-trigger temper: Drita D’avanzo is the embodiment of a dangerous femme fatale. There is something so beautiful and yet dangerous about the mother of two who has had a turbulent ride as the wife of Lee D’avanzo, a convicted alleged bank robber and the alleged leader of a “Bonanno and Colombo crime family farm team,” according to D’avanzo’s official VH1 cast bio. It is her intriguing combination of edginess and vulnerability that has made Drita D’avanzo a breakout star of the hit VH1 reality television series, Mob Wives.
If you haven’t tuned in, Mob Wives chronicles the lives of four women caught up in the organized criminal lifestyle on Staten Island. The men in their lives have been in and out of prison. Or in the case of Karen Gravano’s father, Sammy “The Bull” Gravano, who was shipped off to Arizona under the federal witness protection program (though the former Gambino family underboss blew his own cover in 1999 with an explosive memoir). In the first season of Mob Wives, it was Sammy Gravano’s daughter, Karen Gravano, who was Drita D’avanzo’s main foil. The two women became increasingly hostile towards one another over an unresolved conflict that dates back for more than a decade. Drita married and had two daughters (Aleeya and Gizelle) with Karen’s ex-boyfriend, Lee D’avanzo.
Drita D’avanzo and I had a frank discussion about the events that culminated in the outrageous fight scene with Karen Gravano that aired in the last episode of the first season of Mob Wives, and how it all could have been different. We discussed some of Drita’s realizations about what she would very much like to change. Drita D’avanzo is a fiercely loyal and protective woman with the people in her life who she loves. That blind loyalty stung her when she recently found out about her husband Lee’s alleged infidelity. Throughout our conversation, I found Drita to be hilarious with an infectious, boisterous laugh. Drita D’avanzo is a complicated woman with unresolved pain from the past. She wants to work through it to find a better path for herself and her children, and I hope she will.
PR.com (Allison Kugel): What do you think of your title as a “mob wife?”
Drita D’avanzo: I wasn’t crazy about the title [of the show] but that’s the title they chose. I would rather that it had been something with just women in this lifestyle.
PR.com: Apart from the name of the show, Mob Wives, how do you feel about the label of mob wife being attached to you?
Drita D’avanzo: Look, it’s attached to me, and that’s the way it is. There’s nothing I can do about it. But I’m sure in the future it probably won’t stick with me, the word “wife.” Or really the word mob, honestly. Either way I’ve got to push for my own identity at this point.
PR.com: How do you define yourself as a woman?
Drita D’avanzo: I’m very loyal and strong-minded. I would just say strong all around, physically and mentally. I’m also very soft when it comes to my family and my children, and I think I was raised differently from a lot of people. I was raised in an Albanian household, so my mentality is a lot different from everyone else’s. I was really going to stick it out throughout my marriage, whether it was bad or not. But as a person, I would say I am definitely hot-tempered. I did change a lot though, believe it or not. I’m actually not even as hot-tempered as I used to be.
PR.com: Do you mean that what people saw on the first season of Mob Wives is actually not as bad as it used to be?
Drita D’avanzo: Right. Well, what people saw on the first season of the show is actually nothing like it used to be. When I was younger I would not tolerate you even getting nasty in my face or raising your voice. I would give warning and then just start fighting. Now, the last thing I wanna do is show Aleeya, by example, to get physical. I’m trying to teach them that it’s not the way to go about solving anything. So me being physical, I’m only going to contradict myself and I don’t want to do that. I’m trying to change for my daughters and for myself, because it doesn’t solve anything. I’m too prideful I think. I have too much pride.
PR.com: What is your earliest memory where you, as you say, “blacked out,” and had one of your violent episodes?
Drita D’avanzo: When I was twelve years old. I lived in the projects growing up, and fighting [was] just normal. Everyone’s always like, “Oh, why’d you have so many fights?” I remember when I was younger, about twelve; this girl wanted me and another girl to fight. I wasn’t even mad at the girl. I didn’t want to fight. I was only twelve and I was like, “I don’t wanna fight with her.” But I remember this girl pushed me and hit me, and that was it. I blacked out, but there are in and out moments that I remember. I beat her up, bad, because she hit me. And I was like, “Oh Shit!” (Laughs). I didn’t realize how strong I was. It really is crazy to realize, in that moment, what you’re capable of doing, I guess. But me being strong, and my father training me to be a soccer player with push-ups and sit-ups, he made me super-strong. And on top of that, I had a bad temper. I was not like a girl when I was younger. I was so much more like a boy, so that didn’t help either. I played sports with boys, so I was a tough little girl.
PR.com: What precipitated most of the fights you had growing up?
Drita D’avanzo: Most of the fights I had, I really fought for other people. I beat up a kid in school to [defend] a kid in a wheelchair. It had nothing to do with me, and I beat the shit out of him because I can’t tolerate people bullying or doing anything of that sort. Most of my fights weren’t even really because of me.
PR.com: You felt like you were always trying to stick up for what was right.
Drita D’avanzo: Exactly. That’s not right, to go beat someone up, but that’s the way I handled the situation. I also used to feel like, “You’re bullying a kid with CP in a wheelchair?! Are you kidding?”
PR.com: With the situation with Karen Gravano in the last episode of Mob Wives, what brought it from a verbal argument about your husband (Lee D’avanzo) to a physical altercation? What was it that she said that made you take it there?
Drita D’avanzo: It’s not what she said, it’s what she did. It was her action by getting up. When she got up, I had zero intention of standing or getting physical. If I was gonna hit her, I would have hit her a long time ago on the show. I had no intention of hitting her, period. I don’t want to hit anyone on TV. First of all, you’re on camera, so getting physical on camera is stupid; God forbid something really bad happened. So I worried about that, and then my children and [Karen’s] daughter. I didn’t want to get physical, but when I verbally went against her she got up like she was gonna do something, and that’s it. That’s all I need. To me that’s a threat.
PR.com: As someone who used to have a temper, speaking for myself, I had a temper in my teens and early twenties…
Drita D’avanzo: Really? At least you can understand…
PR.com: I can relate. I came from a home with a very strong father who raised me like a tomboy, same as you. But I also had a lot of anger and pain in me that I hadn’t yet resolved, and I was letting my ego run my life back then.
Drita D’avanzo: I got that, yeah.
PR.com: For example, if I were to be in the situation now that you were in with Karen in that last episode, I would likely say to her, “Why are you getting up? Why do you want to fight? What’s really bothering you?”
Drita D’avanzo: You’re right. I wish I did do that. I think what really caused this fight was, the show aired while we still filmed, so I’m watching what she’s saying about me. Knowing my temper and my pride, for her to come out of her face and completely disrespect me and my family… there’s a way to go about something when you’re hurt, and she went about it the wrong way, and in a way that she knew I would not be good with.
PR.com: Are you and Karen Gravano on speaking terms now? What’s your relationship like right now?
Drita D’avanzo: Right now we’re not really talking, but we’re not going to war either. Second season, we’ve got to feel each other out and see how we can overcome this as mothers. I feel terrible about what happened and it didn’t solve anything. We’ll never be great friends, but there’s got to be a level of respect, and I feel like she didn’t have any for me, and I also feel that I did for her. The way people were talking about her and were so against her, I felt very protective over her, and I felt like she turned on me.
PR.com: Generally speaking, how would you like to see the second season of Mob Wives be different from the first season of the show?
Drita D’avanzo: I don’t like cattiness. It’s kind of hard to get away from that with a bunch of women. We all know each other for a long time and there are a lot of issues and personal things. I’m just hoping we can all resolve our problems differently. Me, personally, I want to focus more on business and making money, and I want to open the door to a new life and not go backwards. I just want to move forward. And I like having a good time. I like being funny. There’s a funny side of me, and I would rather people see that.
PR.com: Since the show wrapped, has your husband Lee given you a more concrete answer as to when he will be coming home?
Drita D’avanzo: It’s going to be in three years, that he’ll be home. There’s no exact date, but around that time.
PR.com: Does that sit ok with you?
Drita D’avanzo: No. Lee and I are not talking because of the cheating. I confronted him, and right now we’re not on speaking terms. He’s obviously not happy about me confronting him, and it seems to me that he doesn’t want to talk. I can’t call him, and he’s not calling me. He calls to talk to his daughter. There was information that was here and there but never confirmed (referring to her husband Lee’s alleged infidelities). I don’t jump to conclusions, but I had to know because it was too much. The girl called me, herself. I have a lot of jealous girls around me in my life, so I’ve had this happen and it was not true. But she got into too much detail about things that she should not know, so that’s when it made me want to find out.
PR.com: Are you in touch with any members of your immediate family?
Drita D’avanzo: Yes. My mother is a huge support. I would never be where I am if it wasn’t for her. She helps me with my children. My brother also is just the best, my best friend. I have a huge family, so a lot of them I’m very close with and a lot of them, because of my kids, I don’t really have the time. But I do have my family that has not turned their back on me. They support me. They did what a family is supposed to do. When things got rough, they were there for me.
PR.com: And you and your father are still estranged?
Drita D’avanzo: Yeah, my father and I… I’m sure it bothers and hurts him. I think he was just so upset that I chose to go this route. He did so much for me, so I don’t even blame him in that sense. He knew this was going to come. He felt like, “How are you so smart, college, soccer, and then you throw everything away for a criminal.” My father is a highly educated man, and in a different world. He’s a very hard worker. He wouldn’t steal a pack of gum (laughs). It’s really sick, like, I’m talking sick! It’s to the point where I couldn’t have married any more opposite than I did. But then again Lee is strong-minded like my father. Even though my father is a hard worker, he is just as tough and strong as my husband. But I went the other way and it was hurtful to my father. Bottom line, if I was really hurting and didn’t have my mom, and I really needed him, I can’t see him just walking away from me. He just doesn’t have a heart like that.
PR.com: What’s your take on bad boys now?
Drita D’avanzo: It’s not worth it and there’s nothing ahead of you that’s going to be easy or make you happy. It’s just not going to happen. It’s a dead end street where you just keep driving around in circles, and I think I’ve done that a little bit too much.
PR.com: Are you open to dating?
Drita D’avanzo: A hundred percent. I’ve been alone for so long. It’s not even sex that I’m thinking is what I need. I just need to have a friend, like a male friend or companion, to go to dinner and go watch a movie. I really want someone for that; not to be the father of my kids. I don’t ever want to get re-married. I don’t want any more children. I just want a friend that I can talk to and hang out with. I’ve been around my female friends forever, and I’m always alone. I would definitely date. I just think I’m a little afraid to. I mean, really, who the hell’s gonna date me after watching this fuckin’ show?
PR.com: You’d be surprised (laughs).
Drita D’avanzo: (Laughs). Yeah, right. I wonder who that would be!
PR.com: There could be a guy out there who’s a little on the nerdy side who’s smart and successful, and maybe he needs a sexy, tough girl like you to excite him and to toughen him up a little (laughs).
Drita D’avanzo: You’re probably right.
PR.com: It would be like an adventure for him.
Drita D’avanzo: It’s funny because I go out on national TV tied up in a marriage, and now I have a whole new door to open and it’s just strange. I’m not looking. I just hope I do meet someone.
PR.com: What are your hopes for your daughters, Aleeya and Gizelle?
Drita D’avanzo: I really hope that they learn from my mistakes. I talk to Aleeya all the time about everything. I try to be honest with her about what happened with her father, and men like her father. It’s a tricky thing because you can’t hurt a kid by talking bad about their father. I know how to choose my words wisely on how to go about explaining that this is not the type of guy to marry, and not the type of guy to be with. But also, my daughter is not going to grow up in an area like I did. She’s fortunate to be in a [good] area. She’s not gonna be getting jumped in the staircase. I had survival of the fittest. I had to be the way I was. She doesn’t have that problem. Hopefully, I open a door for her to see a different world, and a good one.
PR.com: When does the second season of Mob Wives start filming?
Drita D’avanzo: I think at the end of July. Wish me luck, buddy!
The “Mob Wives” reunion show airs July 10th at 8PM ET/PT on VH1. Follow Drita D’avanzo on Twitter @DritaDavanzo.