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Going South: Get to Know Our 'Jersey Belle'

Jaime Primak Sullivan tells us about Southern life as a Jersey girl in an exclusive Q&A. Hint: She listens to lots of Bon Jovi.

By Jaime Primak Sullivan Tell us about living in the South as an East Coaster.
Jaime Primak Sullivan: Every day is an adventure because I don’t know what sort of situation I’m going to encounter and how I’m going to navigate it. Living in Jersey, you know the energy and you know the vibe, so you know how far you can push people or not. But in the South, you never know how somebody expects you to respond. If you ask someone a question, you don’t know if they want the truth, or only the version of the truth they can handle, or not really the truth. Like I never really know, so it’s like Survivor for a Jersey woman. Are there times that you’ve pushed it too far and gotten a crazy reaction?
JPS: Yes, absolutely. A lot of the times they’re not prepared for what comes out of my mouth. My mother-in-law especially has the hardest time with what comes out of my mouth. She’s always sending me text messages saying, "Jaime, can you not say A-S-S on Facebook, thank you." I mean sure, there have been plenty of times of "insert foot in mouth."

[video_clip_url:] Can you tell us how you met your husband and how you’ve moved down to the South.
JPS: I was in Birmingham at a café having a drink with a friend, a co-worker, and I didn’t want to pay for the drinks because they were super expensive. So I stood up off the bar stool and adjusted my jeans and smiled at this really handsome gentleman across the bar. And being the good southern gentleman that he is, he bought me a drink and sent it over. That was all that I’d heard about southern gentlemen, so I knew, and I figured he probably would. And he did. We spoke for a while and he asked for my number and I said, "No," because he was older and I wasn’t interested.

Then a year later, I came back and went into the same café and he walked in. And [he] asked if I remember him. I said, "I do." And he said "Can I buy you another drink," and I said, "Sure." We talked and laughed about how we hadn’t seen each other in a year and still remembered each other. He got my phone number and called me. I was working for a magazine at the time so I was still in town. He asked me out to dinner and we went, and I called my mom after dinner and said "I have good news and bad news. The good news is I think I just met the man I’m going to marry. The bad news is he lives in Birmingham, Alabama."

And it took us a while to get there. I mean he waited nine months to kiss me. nine months?! We got there. I was living in L.A. He asked me to marry him. One of the stipulations of getting married was that I would move to Birmingham -- and here we are. One of the things that I know for sure is that if something is meant to be, it will find its way. There’s no question. Because you can’t tell me that Michael and I are not meant to be. You know? It was going to happen regardless. Now that you’ve moved South, have you seen any changes in yourself?
JPS: I pray a lot more. Southern women pray about everything. So I’m like, "If you can’t beat them, join them." So I pray a lot more and the only other thing I find myself doing is, when someone says something that I know is passive-aggressive, I’m learning to take a minute to figure out where it’s coming from instead of just reacting. I’m a reactive person -- I’m very impulsive. Bam, I think of something and it’s flying out of my mouth. I haven’t perfected it by any means but I’m learning to just hear something, absorb it for a second and then respond. You talk about how your kids are growing up as Southerners. Can you tell us more and explain how you try to keep Jersey and your roots alive?
JPS: It’s very difficult because when people come from Latin countries and they speak Spanish and their children, when they’re eight, don’t speak Spanish anymore because they go to school and learn English, my children want to be Southern -- they want to fit in. But I cook for them the foods that I ate growing up -- I make a lot of sauce, meatballs, sausage, peppers, onions-things that my husband never ate growing up.

Also, I have children who are six, five, and three who all, as soon as we get into the car, say, "Mom, can you put on Bon Jovi?"Oh, I have a thousand videos on my phone of my kids singing Bon Jovi in the car. They know every word.


You know what, It really matters to me, it does. I know some people think it’s silly or weird. But nothing brings me more pride than watching my children sing Bon Jovi. I talk to them about the Jersey Shore and what that means. I talk to them about sneakers and not tennis shoes. It’s called 'Great Adventure' not 'Six Flags.' All of the things. . . What makes up a Jersey girl and a what makes up a Southern Belle?
JPS: The biggest similarity between a Jersey girl and a southern belle is the pride they have for where they come from. Southern people are so proud to be Southern. Jersey girls are equally proud. We’re different in about every way as two people can be. Jersey people would rather address an issue head-on, get it out of the way and move on. Southern people will pretend that nothing happened. When a Jersey girl is upset, I feel like she wears her heart on her sleeve. When a southern girl is upset, she can continue to smile through the rain. Jersey people are loud -- when you go to a dinner party everyone is loud. Southern people are very proper -- everything has its place. They’re more about tradition and we’re more about culture. You are kind of like a rock for a lot of your friends. Why do you think you’ve become such a solid support for some of them?
JPS: I think in a lot of ways I am strong where they feel like they need strength. I’m the least judgmental person in the world. You want to dye your hair red? Dye your hair red. You’re gay? Be gay. Shave your head and join a Buddhist colony? Great, send me a letter when you get there. I think that for once, they have found somebody who loves them for exactly who they really are and they feel like they can be their authentic self with me. When you have somebody that you can be your authentic self -- you can look at your friend and say, "I can’t get pregnant and it’s killing me. My body isn’t doing what it’s supposed to do and I feel like I’m failing." And I can say, "We’ll figure it out. We’ll get you pregnant. We’ll do whatever we have to do. Don’t worry. In the meantime, let’s cry about it because, you know what, it sucks. It’s painful, it’s hurtful and it’s awful." Or, "I want to get divorced. I can’t live this life anymore." And I say, "You know what, you only have one life to be Luci. Be the best Luci you can be. If that means outside of your marriage, then let’s figure out how to get there in the healthiest way possible for your kids. I’ll help you every step of the way."

They don’t have that. They don’t have someone that says,  "I don’t care what your flaws are." Because I’m so flawed that it doesn’t matter to me. When you’re surrounded by people keeping up the illusion of being perfect, when do you ever get the chance to go, "I’m not perfect!" But in my presence, I’m like, "Hey, I’m far from perfect!"

[video_clip_url:] We get to see your work life and your home life. The first episode, you might miss Arden’s wedding due to scheduling. How do you keep a balance between work, social and home life?
JPS: It sounds so cliché, but I just try to do the best I can. There are days that I feel like I’m failing as a mom, as a wife, as a publicist, as a friend. And then there are days where I go to bed and I go, "Damn, I nailed it. Today was a great day!" How do I balance it? I think women are capable of so much -- that’s why we have the babies. I’m very Type A. I’m a control freak. As long as I can stay one step of what’s going on, I can manage. It’s when I lose that control that things start to unravel and that’s very difficult for me. I live by lists. I make a lot of lists, I cross things off and make a new list. I believe in inspiration boards. I have living Pinterest boards in my office and I have inspiration boards for my career, for my mind, for my body, for my kids. I try to say, "What from this inspiration board are you living today? Where are you as a publicist today? Where are you as a mom today?" If I can’t find it on my board, then I’m not doing it right.

I check in with myself. I’m a realist, too. I’m fine giving myself a reality check. "Girlfriend, you didn’t do half of what you were supposed to do today. Why was that? Because you were spending too much time on Twitter or you let a personal phone call go way too long." That’s okay. . .sometimes, I have a busy work day and a friend really needs me so I’ll find an hour to skirt out of the office. And some days it’s hard. How has living in the South met your expectations?
JPS: I think that I had all of the worst possible stereotypes in my head of what that South was going to be like when I got there. I would say that living in the area that I live in, it is so much better than I thought. My group of friends are the most loving, accepting dreamers. They didn’t know they were those things until we kind of found each other. But now they see that they can be more and better than they thought they could be. The same way people think people from New Jersey are all orange-skinned and loud-mouthed slutty brutes is the same way people think people in the South are all toothless, shoeless, overweight hicks. And that is not the case. These are educated, appropriate people who love their culture. It’s just not mine.

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