How the American Dream Saved and Failed Teresa and Joe Giudice

Reality TV star says she doesn't want to talk about Joe's possible deportation.

ByABC News
July 7, 2016, 4:44 AM

— -- Teresa Gorga was 27 when she married her high school sweetheart, Giuseppe Giudice.

She describes herself on her website as a "true Jersey Girl born and raised." Gorga's husband, who adopted the abbreviated name Joe, however was born in Saronno, Italy. His parents, Filomena Giudice and the late Francesco Giudice, who fans saw glimpses of on their hit show "The Real Housewives of New Jersey," had moved to the northern Italian city from their birthplace, Sala Consilina, right on the ankle of the boot that is the Italian peninsula.

In the early 1970s, Filomena and Francesco Giudice moved to the United States with 1-year-old baby Joe in tow. Like many immigrants, it was the lure of the American dream, with its whispers of wealth in the land of milk and honey, that pushed the family to Paterson, New Jersey.

But like historian James Adams described in "The Epic of America," the American dream is "much more than that."

"It has been a dream of being able to grow to [the] fullest development as a man and woman," he wrote in 1931.

PHOTO: Teresa Giudice attends the envy By Melissa Gorga Fashion Show, March 30, 2016, in Hawthorne, New Jersey.
Teresa Giudice attends the envy By Melissa Gorga Fashion Show, March 30, 2016, in Hawthorne, New Jersey.

And for the working-class Giudices giving their children the opportunity to become American -- and not just any American, but a successful one -- would seemingly be everything they'd ever want for their three children.

Giudice took his missive to heart. He not only married a "true Jersey girl," but became an entrepreneur running several businesses. At one point during his life, he was a stucco contractor, pizzeria owner, and even owned an apartment complex in Hillside.

That apartment complex would eventually be shut down for unsanitary living conditions. The power had been shut down due to Giudice not paying the electric bill.

Though he denied owning the apartment building when times got tough, the father of four couldn't keep up with his lies. After forging tax returns, submitting altered pay stubs and even trying to use his brother's identity to get a driver's license when his was suspended, Giudice eventually had to face reality.

He and his wife were convicted of fraud in 2014. While Gorga, now known as Teresa Giudice, served more than 11 months at Danbury Federal Prison in Connecticut, her husband is now serving 41 months at Federal Correctional Institution, Fort Dix in New Jersey -- nearly two hours away from his family's mansion in Montville.

The threat of Giudice's deportation has reportedly shaken the family. It's easy to understand why. The threat is more than just a mandatory physical removal from the only country he's ever known, but it's also a reminder that Giudice -- despite all he's gained and despite marrying an American -- that he's still not American.

PHOTO: Milania Giudice, Teresa Giudice,  Audriana Giudice and Gia Giudice in Montville, New Jersey, May 21, 2016.
Milania Giudice, Teresa Giudice, Audriana Giudice and Gia Giudice in Montville, New Jersey, May 21, 2016.

The threat would scare anyone -- especially someone who has four American daughters. Still, for Teresa, how the threat is affecting the Giudices is nobody's business.

"I'm not even gonna answer that," she told ABC News. "And you shouldn't have even asked me that. ... Out of respect for my four daughters, too. If anybody else asks me that I would say the same thing to them."

It's a rare request for privacy for Teresa, who has lived her life out on cable television since 2009. When fans first met the Berkeley College graduate, she became insta-famous for flipping a table at a dinner party.

We may never know if Joe Giudice felt cheated by the American dream, or if that dream somehow cheated him. Perhaps it's a little bit of both.

But the brush with the law seems to have changed Teresa.

When she walked into ABC News on the last week of June, her hair was bone straight -- a departure from her curly locks debuted on her show's initial season. She wore an angelic dropped-waist white dress with snakeskin sandals.

Though fans haven't seen her since the sixth season of "Real Housewives," since she's been in prison, Teresa doesn't credit her correctional facility for the changes. Instead she points to yoga, which she says she practiced while serving her prison term.

"I'm getting certified to be a yoga instructor," she boasted. "It just calmed me down. I just love it. It makes me so Zen and nothing phases me since I've been doing that."

In fact, Teresa recently met up with a former prison-mate at a yoga class. "That was fun!" she recalled.

Teresa's changed. Even her family sees it. Her sister-in-law Melissa Gorga described her as "calmer."

"When you go through something like what she went through, or something that big -- whether it be losing someone," Gorga, who is also a fellow housewife, told ABC News, "it changes you, your outlook."

PHOTO: Melissa Gorga, left, and Teresa Giudice in "The Real Housewives of New Jersey."
Melissa Gorga, left, and Teresa Giudice in "The Real Housewives of New Jersey."

For Teresa, life's "journey" -- not prison -- was her biggest change agent.

"I always wanted to prove myself right," she said passionately. "Meanwhile, people lie right to your face. It's like there's con artists out there! It really is. So, it's like who cares? Just be you and don’t even care about what anybody else says or does."

Eventually Teresa fell back on old Bravo habits, narrowing it down to a tagline fit for a confessional: "I'm like a fine wine. You just get better with age."

With a new season of "Real Housewives of New Jersey" returning to Bravo on Sunday, Teresa said she hopes that her story will be "inspiring." After all, there's nothing more American than a comeback story.

"I swear I thought I had the perfect life. I really did," Teresa said. "Even when I started the show, I had the perfect life and then, boom, this happened! And I’m like, 'Oh my God.'"