How Dolores Catania Is Making Reality TV Work


For New Jersey housewife, Dolores Catania, reality TV has been a means to reinvention.

The spirited mother of two, who has held posts as a correction officer, surgical technician, and now a television star and fitness studio owner, may be one of the newest cast members on The Real Housewives of New Jersey, but she has quickly emerged as one of the most sensible and empathetic of them all. Catania, who hails from Paterson NJ, tells SWAAY that despite taking an unconventional path in life, most notably skipping a formal college education, she has found empowerment and purpose, in part because of her reality show.

“My life inspiration is to constantly get out of my comfort zone,” says Catania, who became a correctional officer after she graduated high school. “Back when I wanted to be a cop you didn’t need to go to college. It was a blue collar mentality; you’ll have your pension and benefits, you know what you are getting paid every week. I liked law enforcement and I looked up to my dad who became Chief of Police.”

Despite now being divorced for 15 years, she and her ex-husband and business partner, Frank, have a better relationship than most married couples. Their two kids, Gabrielle, 21, and Frankie, 18, may keep the reality star on her toes these days (she says she's not looking forward to her son leaving the nest), Catania found herself bored as a stay-at-home-mom.

“It’s all about drive and not being fearful.”

“When I had my daughter I thought ‘I’m married to an attorney and I thought I can stay home,” says Catania, who openly talks about her husband being unfaithful during her pregnancy, which left her as a single mom unexpectedly. “My mom always worked so I thought I wanted to be there. I soon found that you give up on yourself and lose yourself quickly. Sitting home watching cartoons not doing your hair and makeup, you lose your mojo. You go to the mall to shop at Marshalls. That was my life. I wouldn’t trade it but it did get mundane. I was afraid and insecure and I always thought that if I don’t have an education how can I do anything.”

Ms. Do-It-All

In order to restart her life and get re-motivated after five years, Catania decided to go back to school and get her real estate license. She says she was petrified of taking the test and began planning how she would retake it before even setting foot in the testing room.

“I was sweating,” she says. “I am very fearful of math. I set myself up for failure. I want women not to be afraid and to have confidence. A lack of confidence is your biggest demise.”

Catania says after unexpectedly passing the exam, she did well in real estate thanks to a strong housing market, but that didn’t last.

“When the real estate market crashed we had to pull together,” says Catania, who then decided she wanted to formalize her education and study to be a surgical technician, which took three years.

“It always bothered me that I didn’t have a [college] education,” says Catania. “I live in an affluent area and people always ask where I went to school. I always felt like not answering, so I decided to do something about it.”
When she was 39 years old Catania received her surgical technician degree at Dover College, so she could work in an operating room in a surgical center, assisting surgeons through all operations.
“It was hard as hell,” she says. “I was the oldest person [at school] by 20 years. It was the hardest thing I've ever done in my life.”

Catania Family courtesy of Bravo

It was around this time that Frank opened a gym, giving Catania a new business venture to work on.
“Frank went with his passion and open up a gym, and of course he makes me a part of it,” says Catania. “We started with a trailer in a parking lot. It was a huge thing to take on. We put everything we had into it to open and our whole lives were riding on this.”

Powerhouse Gym in Old Bridge, NJ, which was featured on Real Housewives, now has over 11,000 members and Catania says she just opened a second location also called Powerhouse in Whippany, NJ. According to Catania, having the show as a platform has helped her, and in turn, her business gain popularity.

“My inspiration for the show and for the gym is to tell women don’t fall on your face and stay there,” she says. “We all will get hurt, but be strong, emotionally, physically and financially. Pick yourself up and don’t give up. Care about yourself enough.”

At the gym, Catania strives to do something for women she credits her friend and fellow castmate, Siggy Flicker, with doing for her every single day- motivating her to get up and try harder.

“The times I had my back against the wall Siggy pushed me,” says Catania. “Even taking care of yourself, you feel like you can’t. I try to reach everyone I can. It’s a platform to help people."

The Show

For Catania, who has more than 110,000 followers on Instagram, being a part of The Real Housewives of NJ offers her the chance to reach more women with her message of empowerment.

“I had 999 followers when I started the show,” laughs Catania. “I remember saying I wish I had 1,000 followers. [When I got to 1,000] I thought I was so cool. I thought I made it and I arrived. Frank every day tells me how many more followers I have. He’s so supportive and excited.”

“Don’t feel 'less than' because you don’t have a formal education. I know a lot of Harvard graduates who may not have what you have.”

Catania, who along with Flicker have set themselves apart as voices of reason on the show, hopes to continue putting out a positive message for viewers.

“I’ve grown so much,” she says. “I look at what I do from a woman’s point of view and all the women who have been in my position where one day you can have something and the next day you don’t. It’s the scariest thing in the world. You want to curl up in a ball but then you look at your kids and say ‘I can’t fall on my face.’ You take chances and make something work.”

All in all, Catania says she is most thankful for the show and for her blossoming fitness business, because she can inspire women going through a hard time and remind them not to give up on their dreams.
“It feels good,” she says. “It’s all surreal to me. I don’t consider myself a big deal. Siggy and I are the same on and off camera. Most of my day consists of trying to give back to everybody who gets in touch with me."

When asked if she would choose to be on the show again knowing what she knows now, Catania doesn’t hesitate.

“I would do it again in a heartbeat,” she says. “I went into it with an idea of what I wanted to get out of it and I got out of it exactly what I wanted. I always do something with everybody else in mind. It’s part of my DNA. That’s what I enjoy. I wanted to reach a lot of people and tell them that even though my husband cheated on me, we are friends 15 years later. It’s part of my story. You don’t die. The show is a platform. It’s the best thing to reach so many people.”

“Don’t fall apart. You don’t have the option to fall apart when you’re a mom.”

Regarding her boss, Bravo producer Andy Cohen, Catania said even he saw a positive effect from the show in her own personality.

“Andy said you are one of the few people who came out positive [on the show],” says Catania. "I grew. I got my mojo back. I got my groove back. I walk differently and I talk differently. Ideally Siggy and I would want our own show...Andy do you hear me?!”[thb_border]

The Quick 10

1. What app do you most use?

Instagram, I’m a stalker.

2. Briefly describe your morning routine.

I wake up under a pile of dogs every single morning, and it’s really hard to get up. Once I scoot out the first thing I do is brush my teeth.

3. Name a business mogul you admire.

Jessica Alba. She’s awesome.

4. What product do you wish you had invented?

The cell phone.

5. What is your spirit animal?

I have this fox that sits on my front steps every few weeks. It doesn’t leave my side and I think it is my spirit animal.

6. What is your life motto?

"Never give up"

7. Name your favorite work day snack.


8. To be successful you must be ___?

“Married to your business”

9. What’s the most inspiring place you’ve been to recently?

Patterson Arts and Science Charter School. It’s a charter school in Patterson where teachers teach out of an abandoned building. There was so much team work, it was such a happy environment.

10. Desert Island. Three things, go.

My rosary, my kids, my dogs.

5 min read

3 Healthy Ways to Relieve Stress Each Evening (Instead of Reaching for Another Cocktail)

When we envision a person who is suffering from substance use disorder (SUD)—defined by having a history of past misuse, experiencing increasing mental health symptoms, or having a family history of addiction—we often picture someone waking up and instantly grabbing their first drink. However, in my experience working with those battling SUD for nearly a decade, I've learned that everyone's relationship with alcohol looks different and having a few too many drinks at night can be just as dangerous.

The time of day, amount, or type of alcohol one drinks doesn't define if they suffer from SUD or not—it's the compulsion to drink. By focusing on healthy stress relievers and implementing them into your daily routine, you aren't just avoiding another glass at night, you are curbing any inclination for SUD that you may have.

While you may feel the desire to reach for another drink after dinner and putting the kids to bed to relieve some of the stress you incurred that day, there are other things that you can do that are much more beneficial to your mental health and wellbeing.

Risks of Reaching for Another Drink

Reaching for another cocktail or glass of wine can feel like a great way to relieve the stress of the day at the time, but over time it can actually lead to the opposite. Excessive drinking is known to lead to increased anxiety, depression, and other mental health disorders such as increased risk of family problems, altered judgment, and worsened sleep quality. These can all lead to increased stress and create a continuous cycle I have seen in many of my patients, which often prove difficult to break.

Increased alcohol consumption can directly impact an individual's mood and temperament, too. In my patients, I've seen a connection between increased alcohol consumption and irritability, fatigue, and loss of interest in activities that previously brought that person joy—activities that people should always put time into, especially right now during the pandemic.

While drinking in moderation doesn't have serious implications for some, others are already at increased risk for SUD. One drink per day is considered moderate for women, while eight drinks or more in a single week is categorized as heavy drinking. It's important to monitor your intake—whether you are at increased risk for SUD or not. It is all too easy for one glass to become another, and then another. And if you keep reaching for just one more drink, you can start to build a tolerance, as it requires more and more alcohol to achieve the desired effect. This can result in dangerous, addictive habits that will alter your life, and the lives of those who care for you.

Three Healthy Ways to Relieve Evening Stress

Stress relief from alcohol is short-lived, but choosing healthier, alternative stress relievers can provide long-lasting benefits for both your mental and physical wellbeing. At Wellbridge, our team not only focuses on treating addiction but also on teaching healthy habits to support ongoing sobriety. And many of these learnings can be implemented to avoid addiction by handling stress better as well!

Below are three healthy stress relief ideas you can implement into your routine:

  1. Mindfulness exercises can be a powerful and mentally stimulating stress reliever. Throughout our therapeutic program at Wellbridge, we provide different opportunities to cultivate mindfulness. For example, breathing exercises, such as box breathing or diaphragmatic breathing, mindful walking, and progressive muscle relaxation. If you're looking for entry, guided meditation, check out this YouTube channel where experts post mindfulness exercises each week.
  2. Human connection is invaluable. Whether it is your spouse, your children, a friend, or even a therapist, connecting with someone else can be a great way to relieve stress. The additional perspective that another person provides can also help us feel that the anxieties and stressors we are experiencing are more manageable. If you are feeling increased stress from loneliness or isolation, reach out and schedule a Zoom coffee hour with a friend, or call a loved one to check-in and chat.
  3. Physical activity is an excellent stress reliever as well, for so many reasons. Not only can it help us get our mind off of stress, it enables our bodies to release endorphins and provides long-lasting physical health benefits. Physical activity doesn't need to be a full-blown workout if you don't feel up to it, or simply don't have extended periods of time to dedicate to a longer exercise regimen. Even a short walk or some stretching can go a long way towards improving your mood. I enjoy following guided, online yoga practices for both mindfulness practice and physical activity.

Despite my years working in this space, I am no stranger to giving in to stress. However, I've learned that by allotting myself a little time each morning and evening for activities that set a positive tone in my life—like meditation, journaling, and exercise—I've been able to better manage my stress and feel more prepared for heightened periods of stress. Do I manage to set aside personal time every morning and evening? Definitely not—life happens! But by doing our best to take regular time out for ourselves, we're all certain to be in a better place emotionally and mentally.

Putting Your Mental Health & Wellbeing First

It's important to also recognize that it isn't just stress that causes us to reach for another drink at night. With the added pressures and responsibilities of women in today's world, having another glass of our favorite drink at the end of the day can often seem like a quicker and easier option than other healthier ways to relieve stress.

However, it's essential to put your mental health and wellbeing front and center in your priority list—something that many women struggle with. But just like the oxygen masks on an airplane, you can't take care of others if you don't take care of yourself first. By focusing on implementing small, healthy habits and making them a seamless part of your daily routine, you ensure that you can show up in all aspects of your life and for all the people in your life.

If you are struggling with increased stress, be specific and honest with your support system about your need to preserve your mental wellbeing. Prioritizing your needs will help you be there for other people you care about in your life.

I always refer back to a quote from a Dar Williams song—a song about therapy no less! "Oh, how I loved everybody else when I finally got to talk so much about myself." Talk about your needs with others and find time to develop healthy coping habits. And if you feel as though you've already created an unhealthy relationship with alcohol, discuss that relationship with a medical advisor to learn if advanced treatment is the right option for you.