Peruvian-born, Los Angeles-raised Jo de la Rosa made a name for herself as the Material Girl on Bravo's hit show Real Housewives of Orange County. Since breaking off her engagement to Slade (her signifanctly older fiancè) and leaving the show, Jo moved back to LA, reconnected with her single self and followed her dream of recording an album. Now, the former housewife is back with a new career, and an eye for love on her very own reality dating show, Date My Ex (which premieres Tuesday, July 21 on Bravo). Jo de la Rosa talks to us about her relationship with Slade (they're still friends), her musical influences (some of them will surprise you), and the family she left behind in Lima.
Why did you decide to do a show like this, where your ex helps you find a new boyfriend?
Well, if I can be completely honest, this wasn't a project I wanted to do at first. After doing two seasons of Real Housewives of Orange County I really didn't think that I was going to go back to doing reality television. I was pretty much done with it. But [Bravo] came to me with the show, and at first I was like y'all have to be crazy--like, there's no way I'm doing a dating show with my ex--who does that? But then, my two best friends, Katie and Maya, became involved in the project and they were like, "why not? It's fun and you're still young—just do it, give it a try and see what happens."
So did you find these dates on your own, or were they set up by the producers?
There was a casting for it, and I just found this out, but I guess [the producers] were casting by telling people there was a new girl that was coming into the pop world and do you want to be set up on a date with her, that kind of a thing. Then Katie and Maya weeded through them once they got on the show.
Did you connect with any of the bachelors?
At first I was very guarded, but I surprised myself. Feelings that I started having for certain people on the show and even old feelings that came back, you know with Slade, and things that I thought weren't there anymore. Slade and I were both surprised. He thought he'd be okay with watching me go on dates and helping weed through these guys—he wants what's best for me—and it actually became a very hard process for him.
Was there any backlash from how you were portrayed on Real Housewives of Orange County?
No, not to my face. Whenever I would go out people were very supportive of the decision I had made. They would say, "you know you're a little bit a mean to Slade, but it's because you were so young and you weren't ready for marriage and kids, so you did the right thing at the end." Unfortunately, Slade was there to go through the growing pains with me and I didn't feel like it was fair to put him through all of that. At the same time, like I'm a romantic. I lead with my heart. I was so far into it, by the time I realized, "wow, he does have two kids, we are really about to get married that's a really big commitment," I was so far in, already planning the wedding, but I wasn't done accomplishing things I wanted to do. Obviously, great things have come, but unfortunately at Slade's expense with his heart.
In spite of everything, you two are obviously still close...
Such good friends. It's because I was so honest with him that we managed to be friends.
What do you look for in a guy?
Definitely has to be confident, he has to be outgoing, he has to be spontaneous and he has to make me laugh. I'm all over the place all of the time and I definitely need someone who can keep up with me because my schedule is so busy. He's got to be flexible, and understanding, support me in my dreams and my goals the same way that I would support him.
What advice do you have for women thinking about getting engaged?
I would say, it's going to be the best time of your life and soak up every minute of it, but at the same time don't lose sight of who you were and the things you wanted before you entered that relationship, because that's where resentment comes in.
You just finished realizing one of your dreams, recording an album. Do you think being on the show helped you achieve that?
I definitely think that being on the show was the launching pad. A lot of people don't know that I grew up in a recording studio. My dad was a musician. I come from a very, very musical family. My aunt sings professionally out in France. My whole family's very musical. People didn't get that. People got that I was this cutesy girl, who like supposedly liked diamonds and all of that stuff...and just for the record, I'm not really even into diamonds! I'm a really big shoe and bag girl. I feel like the image that got portrayed on the show was that I was this very materialistic girl that was all about diamonds. Don't get me wrong I like nice things. Like, I definitely am a shoe and bag girl. So yeah, just to make that clear.
What type of performer do you see yourself as?
I grew up loving anyone who could sing and dance, so it was Janet Jackson, it was Paula Abdul, it was Madonna and you, know, even younger it was Stacy Ferguson on Kids Incorporated and it was Britney Spears on the Mickey Mouse Club--anybody who could sing and dance.
What are some of your dream collabos?
You know, it's really funny and it's totally off, people wouldn't expect, but it's Rascall Flatts. I'm a huge, huge country girl, I'm in love with country music. My biggest influences right now are Carrie Underwood, Rascall Flatts, Gretchen Wilson, Sara Evans, those are all huge inspirations to me. Just lyrically, I love country music. It always tells a story and it's just really passionate.
Do you think you might do a country album at some point?
Yeah, I wanted to, but someone along the way said that Nashville wouldn't embrace a Latin girl doing country. I might still try it because I don't think your race should define you or your culture should define what you can or cannot do…I think you should be proud of where you came from. I know I am.
Where are you from?
Lima, Peru. I was born there. I speak Spanish to my mother still. She yells at me in Spanish. And you know, my whole family is there [in Peru], not just a little bit, my whole family. I would love to go back to Peru.