Life of the Party
She may have chosen to leave The Real Housewives of New Jersey during the hit Bravo series’ second season, but Dina Manzo never really left the public eye. Instead the noted interior designer, event planner and philanthropist maximized on her status as a beloved reality TV star to expand her business empire and become one of HGTV’s most popular personalities.
“It’s so amazing; I truly feel like part of the family,” declares the 40-year-old charismatic superwoman about her experience as the cable network’s newest star. “I have a voice and people are listening; I love what I do!”
Manzo—who didn’t plan on returning to television after Housewives—is now starring in her own HGTV series. Launched last September, Dina’s Party spotlights her impressive interior design and event planning skills. In each episode, Manzo and her team transform a client’s space into something singular and stunning to celebrate an important moment or occasion.
“I love the challenge that comes right after that first inspiration, that first idea,” admits Manzo. “It’s such a rewarding feeling to bring that vision to life and celebrate the finished product. It’s so fast-paced and every week brings something new and different. I feel more creative than ever!”
Manzo’s ceaseless creativity isn’t some newfound talent though; it’s actually a gift she inherited from her mother.
“She was all about making our home a lovely place to be,” recalls Manzo, the youngest of 11 children. “I grew up watching her paint walls and make curtains; and I remember being very young and redoing my own bedroom with my stuffed animals and moving everything around once a week. It was not normal!”
Despite that natural talent, Manzo didn’t pursue a career in interior design and event planning right away. Instead she worked as a makeup artist, something she might still be doing had her doctor not ordered her to go on bed rest during her pregnancy.
“I was bored out of my mind and realized I needed to do something, so I started taking basic interior design classes,” remembers Manzo, who later continued her studies while working for a furniture company called Expressions. “But I quickly learned that in this industry, you either have a natural talent or you don’t.”
Realizing her true calling, a self-assured Manzo launched her design career with complete conviction. She even side-stepped small jobs to work on “mega mansions.”
“I’d help build a 20,000 square-foot home from the ground up with the builder and the architect,” states Manzo. “It was really interesting to start from the foundation and carry the feeling through the entire house, and I’m glad I had that experience. It has helped me in all aspects of design, knowing what really goes into the structure of a home, the layout and paying attention to the details.”
It’s that meticulousness that led Manzo to transition from interior design to event planning. Along with executing events with her then-boyfriend Tommy—a co-owner of Housewives haunt The Brownstone—Manzo planned her own wedding, which was featured on the VH1’s My Big Fat Fabulous Wedding.
“When I accomplished it and actually made the place look gorgeous, I realized I was pretty damn good at event planning,” proclaims Manzo. “I went from planning a wedding ceremony for 50 to one for 750 people, all in a matter of four weeks with VH1 cameras following my every move. And, I realized I had a natural gift.”
So in 2005, Manzo wrapped up her projects, phased out her design business and launched her event planning company, Designer Affair, where even her 16-year-old daughter Lexi lends a hand.
“She helps set up parties,” says the proud mother. “She loves my team; they’re like her big brothers and sisters. She’s a part of it all and it’s working out great!” But there’s more to Manzo’s life than party planning. She’s also the founder of Project Ladybug, a non-profit organization that enriches the lives of children receiving treatment for serious and life-threatening illnesses.
“I toured the hospital where my husband and daughter were born, and I saw a need for these children who were coming for treatment with no winter coats and no shoes on their feet,” remembers Manzo. “It just broke my heart and I thought this is who I want to help. So I said, ‘I’m an event planner and I throw a damn good party, so why not throw one for a great cause.’ And, the charity has grown by leaps and bound, we’re now even national!”
So what’s next for this empowered businesswoman with a heart of gold?
“I’m coming out with my own line of pillows, throws and candles; and I’m writing a lifestyle and design book,” announces Manzo. “I dream big; and I think Martha Stewart needs a younger, hipper replacement.”
It’s that passion, determination and superwoman spirit that could see Manzo unseating Martha Stewart sooner than later!
For more about Dina Manzo, visit www.DinaManzo.com.
Tom Castañeda is a creative writer, blogger, and award-winning broadcast journalist who has worked at Architectural Digest, In Touch Weekly, and Latina – a fashion, beauty, and lifestyle magazine for today’s bi-cultural Latina woman. Throughout his career in publishing, Tom has planned and executed numerous celebrity, fashion, and beauty programs throughout the country, including fashion shows, and shopping events for brands like Bloomingdale’s, Chanel, Mikimoto, David Yurman, Givenchy, Armani Fragrances, Macy’s, Southpole Collection, and more. Additionally, Tom has drawn on his strong journalism background to create various print, online, and video reports on various subjects, including fashion and beauty.