In the decade since viewers first met Jo De La Rosa on The Real Housewives of Orange County, the Season 1 alum's life has changed dramatically. Some of those major life changes took place when the cameras were rolling (like her split from then-fiance Slade Smiley), and some of those shifts occurred after she bid the show a farewell following Season 2. Jo now lives in Los Angeles, where she not only works in advertising but is also on the verge of launching her own fashion, beauty, and lifestyle site, Champagne & Milk, later this summer. Oh, and by the way, she also recently got engaged to the man of her dreams, Mark Lovette, the CEO and founder of the media company Empire Digital. As RHOC celebrates its 10-year anniversary, we caught up with Jo to get the scoop on her life these days and hear her thoughts on the show that became a TV phenomenon.
"I cannot believe it's the 10th anniversary. Obviously, I did the first couple seasons, just kind of seeing what Real Housewives has become, for me, I feel blessed that I was a part of the entire experience," she told The Daily Dish. "Watching it back now, I would have made some different choices in terms of French maid outfits, maybe some of my fashion choices of 2006 were questionable. I feel like it's changed so much, and when I can catch an episode, I feel like the difference between the original season and the seasons now, I just love the hair and the makeup and the wardrobe, just like how everything in terms of production value, it's just awesome to see how big of a franchise [it's become]. I feel honored. It was a really fun experience."
Fun, yes, but not always easy. Jo added that some of the hardest experiences during her time on the show were "having to grow up in front of cameras and having my breakup with Slade on national TV and kind of just immature decisions that I made." Despite having to learn to live under a microscope, she noted that being a 'Wife made her "who I am today, and because of reruns people think I'm still on TV. It has been such a huge part of who I've become regardless of whatever happened on the show. I am so thankful and so blessed and so thankful to Bravo because that's home to me.'
Jo recently went home again when she reunited with Jeana Keough and Vicki Gunvalson, just in time for the show's big anniversary. In fact, she remains close to Jeana and her daughter, Kara Bosworth. And she thinks it's awesome that Vicki is still on the show. "I love that she is still on the show [and] she's holding it down for us," she said. "And she's so awesome, and I'm so proud of her, and I'm so happy she's one of the originals representing for the original cast."
Slade also represented for that crew after Jo left the series. He and Gretchen Rossi got engaged on the show before she stepped away after Season 8. And Jo only wishes those two the very best. "I think that where I am in my life today, I'm probably in the happiest place I've been in my entire life. And I am really happy for the both of them because at the end of the day — and I will actually say he's gotten a lot of heat for being not the best dad, in terms of what cameras have caught and what's been out there about him — and I'm just here to say I'm really happy that he's happy because he deserves happiness."
She continued, "And he was an incredible father and, honestly, for me that was probably one of the worst things in terms of memories, again, it's going back to that whole thing that people come up with their own conclusions of who we are on TV, and I don't think he got enough credit for truly being an incredible father, and I want people to know that."
And Jo hasn't been holding out hope for a reunion with her ex. She became engaged to Mark in November 2015. "Right now, we'll just say I met one of the most incredible men in my life and the person I was truly supposed to be with," she said. "I really felt like I found the person that I was [meant for]. I really feel like God brought me more than I could have ever prayed for and I'm really happy. He's wonderful."
In addition to wedding planning, later this year she'll officially launch Champagne & Milk, which was inspired by her friends and love for L.A. "Being surrounded by all my girlfriends who were either fashion designers or models, they just were all in the fashion industry, being around that so much, I always had a love for fashion," she explained. "So I think that just getting immersed in that world and having been collaborating with clothing lines and handbag lines and different things in my past, I wanted to share that love of fashion and beauty, and even the L.A. lifestyle, just to be able to share that with the world and inspire girls to basically do whatever it is they want to do. So me and my best friend [Marketing/PR Manager at fashion brand Thomas Wylde] Hayley Barnes, she and I came together and decided why not launch a fashion and beauty and lifestyle site? It's girly, it's fun, it's like living in a walking closet."
Photo courtesy: Randee St. Nicholas
Ater leaving RHOC in 2007, Jo briefly appeared on Bravo again on the series Date My Ex: Jo & Slade the following year. And, she wouldn't outright say no to a chance to appear on TV again. "I think that over the years and over time, I think that I would say never say never," she said. "If the opportunity was there, I definitely would be open to the conversation." Though, she joked, "I am a rerun now, officially."
Check out some throwback photos of Jo, below.