Long before Erika Girardi was Erika Jayne, or, heck, even Erika Girardi, she was just Erika: a girl from Georgia with big dreams of superstardom and a childhood that offered up the kind of drama that would make her the perfect candidate to someday become a Real Housewife. The "How Many F---s?" singer details it all in her revealing new memoir, Pretty Mess — not holding back about any subject — including her complicated relationship with her mom, Renee (more on that below) and how it connects to her life more recently as one of The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills, and also her stint on Dancing with the Stars (“Week after week, I could just feel the noose tightening.").
Then there's her life before all that. And she goes in deep. Wondering just what Erika spills in the tell-all? Well, here are seven things we learned about Ms. Jayne before she was the woman she is today from the revealing tome.
1. Her Two Dads
OK, neither of these guys were named Tom, but they did play important roles in her life — even if only one of them was more active in it during her youth.
Of her dad, who left shortly after she was born and who she later learned ended up becoming a cop just like her son now, she writes,
I don't think my father wanted to be a dad. He was a mechanic at a car dealership in the town at that time and he wanted a different life for himself. Once he moved to California, my father wasn't part of my life at all.
Of her stepdad, whom her mother married on two occasions and would eventually adopt Erika, she writes that he was a good father figure for her despite his rocky relationship with Renee,
He was always very loving and kind toward me. We played sports and bonded over baseball and cars... He's the one that really started my lifelong love of fast cars.
2. Go-Go to the Garden State
Erika and her mom moved to NYC when Erika was 18. Eventually, to help pay rent and expenses, when she wasn't auditioning to be a Fly Girl on In Living Color (she didn't get it, but saw J. Lo audition) or playing the first-ever dead person on Law & Order, she spent her nights in New Jersey dancing at go-go clubs to make money. Coincidentally, later in life with Tom Girardi, they often fly their private jet into Teterboro airport — across the street from a club she used to dance at.
There were no lap dances or glamorous champagne rooms or anything like that. This was just dancing in a microbikini and talking to the guys — all blue-collar dudes after work — for their extra singles. I wish it had been something exciting like that, but none of that was happening in suburban New Jersey ... This was way before my boob job, so I was small and natural.
...To get around this law, there are many go-go clubs and bikini bars. It was creepy and sad. This was not the glamorous life that I had imagined for myself. I thought, This is so gross. Why am I here? … it was depressing as hell.
3. The First Tom In Her Life
Apparently Erika has a thing for guys name Tom and she met the first Tom in her life when he was a DJ at famed Manhattan hotspot, China Club. "He was a tall, muscular Sicilian with the kind of streetwise swagger that only native New Yorkers can muster. He was an absolute piece."
Tom the First was seven years older than Erika (she was 19 when they met) and the couple moved in together about six months after they started dating. And then, not long after that, came the other important Tom in her life, her son.
I missed a few days of my birth control pills. I thought I could double up on the next ones and it would work out fine. Well, it didn't. My period was late. It dawned on me in an acting class while we were doing some exercises. Somebody was performing a boring scene, and for the first time I wondered if I was pregnant. I didn't feel pregnant, but then again, I had no idea what being pregnant felt like. That afternoon, I went home and took a home pregnancy test. It was positive. A few days later, I went to my OB/GYN, Dr. Cox. She confirmed that I was pregnant.
4. And Then Comes Marriage
With a baby on the way, the couple decided to marry. And they did so in a major way back in December 1991 at St. Patrick's Cathedral. "The wedding was big, obnoxious, and pink," she described. But, the couple just couldn't make it work.
I feel like my marriage came apart because of me, not because of anyone else. I can take responsibility. I knew I was a good mom. I thought I was adult enough to be a wife and a mother, but really I wasn't. Tommy bore the brunt of that. It was this constant pressure and it was hard for both of us to take. We broke up when my son was a little more than 18 months old. I came out of a divorced home. I did what I knew, which was to take my son and leave.
5. Before Their Demise, However
Tommy was born.
He was not crying when he came out. He was just kind of looking around, with his big blue eyes... When the doctor put him into my arms, it wasn't like I was meeting a stranger for the first time. I felt like we were two souls being reunited after a long break. Like meeting an old friend... We named him Thomas, after his father.
6. L.A., Baby
After Erika and Tom No. 1 split, she decided the best way to make her career take off was to move to Los Angeles — so the duo hustled to make that scenario work out so she could continue to play an active role in her son's life, which met she would fly back between the two coasts and eventually her son became bi-coastal as well. Erika makes it clear in the memoir that the move was not "about finding a rich man to support my son and me." She was focused on making it so that she could care for her family and make her dreams come true.
I was always very responsible with our son and put his needs first. Putting my son first was what moving was all about. If I was going to take care of him and provide the future for him that I wanted, I knew that I had to get away and find a better life and a more sustainable existence for myself.
...I would fly back to New York every seven to ten days. Even though his school was back east, I was at every teacher conference, school play, graduation and any other event I thought I should attend.
7. It's About Tom
Her son, that is.
When I moved to California, I always knew that my son would eventually come out and live with me. Little did I think it would be under these circumstances, with me living this insane life and him a grown man on the police force. If you ever see me in an alley in Hollywood talking to a cop, know that everything is just fine. There have been quite a few men in my life, but there will never be one more special than him.
Check out more from Erika, below.