Drita D'Avanzo knows how to bring the drama on “Mob Wives,” but since Hurricane Sandy devastated her New York City borough of Staten Island, her focus has been on helping her neighbors. To that end, the makeup artist is hosting a benefit in Manhattan this week to raise money for the victims. The event, which will be attended by some of her “Mob Wives” co-stars (yes, Big Ang will be there!) and other celeb friends, is open is open to the public and she hopes it will draw a big fan turnout.
The 35-year-old single mom lives just a block from the beach in Staten Island – in a mandatory evacuation zone – so she and her two daughters bunked with her mother, who lives nearby on higher ground, to ride out the hurricane late last month. In the days immediately following the storm, they were without electricity, and downed trees and flooding prevented her from going to see whether her own home was still standing. While her house turned out to be okay, D'Avanzo soon discovered that her friends and neighbors didn’t fare so well. “Everything is destroyed,” D’Avanzo tells omg! about her hometown, which is the backdrop of VH1 reality series. “All my friends’ homes. Anywhere I used to go eat. It’s really the most horrific tragedy. You would have thought we were in World War III.”
As soon as her power was restored, D'Avanzo endured hours-long gas lines to fuel up her car and deliver supplies to numerous drop-off locations on Staten Island. She also started planning a benefit, which will take place Thursday, November 15, from 7 to 10 p.m., at the Manhattan night club WIP. Big Ang and Carla Facciolo from “Mob Wives” will be there, and Raquel Castro from “The Voice” is set to perform. Other surprise celebrity guests might also pop up. “It’s open to anyone and everyone,” D'Avanzo says of the fundraiser. “I would love for my fans to come. My fans support me in every which way. … What we’re doing is a $20 a head cover charge, which will go to the fundraiser. People pay that anyway to go to a club. And if they want to donate extra, obviously, they’re more than welcome.”
Being a life-long Staten Islander – and volunteering there over the last two weeks – D'Avanzo feels she has the inside track when it comes to knowing who needs help. “I’d love to just donate money to Red Cross or FEMA, and I’m not knocking them, but I don’t know where the money is going,” she admits. “I’m in Staten Island. I know these people. I know their names. I know their families. So I have specific families that I want to help. For instance, there is a woman right now who can’t bury her sister, who died during the storm. $4,500 is what it costs and she does not have it. She has no home; she has nothing. And who is going to buy people sheetrock? Nobody is going to drop that off at a donation spot, but those things are necessities, too. So I’m going to raise as much money as I can and help as many people as I can with their specific needs.”
And don’t think D'Avanzo missed the article in the New York Observer in the days following the hurricane, which said she “crashed” Hurricane Sandy relief efforts by showing up at supply distribution spot with the camera crew from her reality show. According to the story, the TV star’s presence was “not well received” and in poor taste, but D'Avanzo slams the report. “I’m glad you brought that up. That wasn’t what happened at all,” she says. “When I was going to donation spots, everyone told me that one specific area was being neglected. I had tons of things to bring – brand new sneakers, blankets, pillows, blanket, food, toiletries – probably nine construction bags filled with things. When we got there, there was hardly anyone there [helping]. In the photo you see me talking to one guy, who was so sweet. He said, ‘Thank you for coming. Nobody came here. This is awful.’ The article said people were shying away from me and that just wasn’t the case. I was actually glad [the crew] was there because I needed help carrying things and they pitched in. And the cameras weren’t focusing on anyone but me and my kids, who I brought along to help, just like they always do.”
D'Avanzo is still smarting from the story, especially because she says she was doing a lot of work behind the scenes that wasn’t being filmed for the show. “Honestly, I did a million things without the cameras around,” she notes. “But this is what I do for a living – I appear on a reality show – and I was working that day. It’s not like I can say: ‘You can’t come.’ That’s not how it works. If that was the case, I’d have no fights on TV, I wouldn’t be cursing – because if I had control, none of that would be aired. It just boggles my mind how people don’t mind me physically assaulting someone on TV, but they mind me doing something good. If you see the person I really am, if you want to see what I am doing, this is what I’m doing. I’m crying every day. I’m donating. I’m trying to get a fundraiser together. If this bothers you, there’s an issue with you – not me. So that was just kind of nonsense.”
Viewers will get to see how the hurricane impacted Staten Island – and a whole lot more – when “Mob Wives” returns for a third season in January. What else can we expect? “A lot of changes,” she promises. “I think that the audience is going to be completely stunned about how different it is this season. There are so many twists and turns. It’s definitely a change – it’s just crazy. It will never not be crazy cause there are a bunch of crazy women on this show – including myself!” One major difference will be that Renee Graziano recently sought treatment reportedly for abusing pills. “I’m a big supporter of Renee being in treatment,” says D'Avanzo. “I’m very proud of Renee.”
As for whether there will be more or less fighting, let’s just say there won’t be a peace treaty anytime soon. “Last year, if you asked the same question to Carla she’d say, ‘There’s no fighting. I never have any problems.’ But you’re talking to me – the person who everyone is always attacking. I’ll tell you that for two seasons there has been nothing but fighting. But listen, you’ve got a bunch of single women going through hell. Never had a man around. Everybody goes through so much. And people want us to bond?!?” she laughs.
A change for the positive could be a potential love for the divorcee. “Maybe – you’ll have to tune in,” she teases. “You’re going to be like: Oh. My. God. You’re going to be shocked.” As for her daughters – Aleeya, 10, and Gizelle, 4 – things with them are great. “They’re awesome. Aleeya is like so much happier because her dad [who has been serving time in prison for bank robbery] is coming home soon. There is so much change and it’s so different – it’s a lot more positive because she was very depressed that he was always away. It’s funny because my kids are not allowed to watch the show, yet they’re a big part of it. And when they see me being [recognized] outside of the house, they don’t get it. They’re like: ‘Why do you think you’re so cool because you’re so not.’”
Click here to find out more about D'Avanzo’s Hurricane Sandy benefit.
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