Dorinda Medley on reliving heartbreak and Housewives in memoir Make It Nice
In Bravo's Real Housewives universe, there are few locations of such legendary stature as Dorinda Medley's Massachusetts estate, Blue Stone Manor. A regular group-trip destination throughout Medley's tenure as a New York Housewife, the always-seasonally-decorated Berkshires home — given its name by onetime castmate Carole Radziwill — is perhaps best remembered for being the site of Medley's now-iconic season 8 cry: "I cooked! I decorated! I made it nice!"
The line stuck to Medley even harder than "Feelin' Jovani" gets stuck in your head. "That one I'm going to my grave with," she tells EW. "I don't go through almost a day without someone saying it to me at some level."
So naturally, it gave the Bravolebrity the title for her memoir, Make It Nice (out now). "I mean, what else could it be?" she says. "The only other thing I could have called it was Not Well, Bitch!"
After six seasons on RHONY, Medley was put "on pause" by Bravo in 2020 and took her time off Housewives and in quarantine to write Make It Nice — from Blue Stone Manor, in her hometown.
"I thought: It's time. All the roads are leading to take a moment," she says. "And spending a lot of time back with my parents, because they live very close, I started to go through my baby albums and go through my wedding albums — you notice that's plural — and go through my yearbooks. A lot of the young Dorinda came out again, spending time with my parents, because it's inevitable. We're all kids when we're in our parents' presence."
The book goes all the way back to her childhood in Great Barrington, Mass., and takes readers through her college years, her early career in New York, her first marriage and motherhood abroad, her second marriage and widowhood back home, and finally of course her stint on Bravo's biggest franchise.
"I really lived different chapters of my life that really defined me, ultimately. Each one defined me a little more," she reflects.
And while fans who have seen her on Housewives may have picked up a few pieces of her personal history, "people never really understood the who, what, where, why of it," she says. "The Housewives was sort of the frosting; you learned about my frosting. But I wanted to teach you about the cake."
Some of that cake is pure sweetness — Medley admits that she even surprised herself with how revisiting memories of her beloved grandparents made her "really, really sentimental" — but the story is not without pain.
"Of course, Richard was so very hard to write about," she says of her late husband, Richard Medley. "Although I'd spoken about Richard and speak about Richard often, I speak about Richard now as the Richard I married and the Richard I lived with; I never really spoke intensely about the Richard that I had to watch slip away from me. I restored him in my mind. I don't ever think of him as the sick Richard. So to have to relive that was difficult."
That devastating period in her life was the most painful to write about, but the whole process of chronicling her history was "really, really hard," Medley admits. "You have to slowly unpeel yourself, and you've got to open up the can of worms. If you want to do it correctly, you have to do it, and then redo it, and then redo it again, and then get comfortable with what you wrote, and then make sure you own it" — with special care for the other parties involved, she adds, since her own story inevitably touches other people's as well.
A few of those other people whose lives have intersected with Medley's are, of course, her fellow New York Housewives, the friends for whom she cooked, she decorated, she made it nice. She approached that chapter of her life intentionally, too, sharing behind-the-scenes memories (like the surreal shock of sudden fame) and revisiting iconic moments (like the one that gave the memoir its title) but never trying to relitigate past dramas, as the wives do during their end-of-season reunions.
"I didn't want the book to be about that," she says. "I think, in that process, you have to be willing to let it play its way out, and I didn't want the book to become my side of my story. I wanted it to be my overall experience on the show. We do enough of that [during the] season. That, to me, would have been like diving into minutiae, and then I would have lost whatever message I was trying to give."
Because at the heart of Make It Nice isn't just the story of Medley's life, but all the wisdom she's gained from it. Writing the book, she says, "made me [realize], 'you know what? I'm a pretty strong woman, and I've done a lot.'" It was also an illuminating exercise for her daughter Hannah, a trained academic writer herself who "was a huge participant" in the work of writing the memoir, Medley says, and who learned a lot about her mother in the process. For instance, Hannah hadn't known that Medley struggled with an eating disorder as a young woman; "she said, 'it really humanized you for me. You were in it like all of us,'" Medley remembers.
"We don't think about it, but we all have to go through the fire. We do. It's just life," she reflects. "I know we don't expect it, and as mothers we try to protect our children as much as possible, and we try to give them a little bit more than maybe you were able to have, but at the end of the day, everybody's got to do it. They've got to walk through." We can only do our best to make things nice along the way.
Make It Nice is available now.