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People often ask me how I know Dina Manzo host of HGTV’s Dina’s Party and former star of The Real Housewives of New Jersey on BRAVO. I hear the confusion in their voice when they cautiously ask the question.
Even though they know I’m not from New Jersey, I’m still asked if she’s a family friend, if we grew up together, if I lived in New Jersey – Yep, even the people that know that I grew up in Glendale Hts., IL and then moved down to Springfield, IL still ask; it’s actually quite amusing.
The funny thing is - I get it; I totally get it. It is confusing. How does a normal-everyday person end up friends with a celebrity? I’m not from New Jersey, I’m not a well-to-do housewife and I’m not known for running in celebrity circles, so what gives?
Well, as you, my faithful reader knows it all stemmed from a chance meeting last summer at The Rally for Kids with Cancer fundraiser. The cards were stacked in my favor; though at the time, I was oblivious to cards stacked any which way.
The Rally, unlike a typical celebrity sighting, pseudo-stalking, “Oh my god, I love you; can I get my picture with you” experience, was setup to allow people like me to mingle with the stars. Within 24 hours, we “bumped” into each other several times. (not to say that I wasn't totally star-struck when I spotted Dina for the first time)
That gift, that luxury of time, afforded me the opportunity to share my story about Atia’s battle with cancer and sprinkle in my own experience, too. Once past that, we easily move into friendly chit chat about her show, her charity, and her ties to Chicago, at which point our relationship began morphing from fan/celebrity to a more comfortable acquaintanceship.
When I introduce her to some important people at The University of Chicago Comer Children’s Hospital, our relationship again evolved. With each passing moment we were getting to know each another better and forming a common bond based on mutual respect, and shared goal of helping children and their families battling childhood cancer.
I offered to assist her in any way she needed so that Project Ladybug could spread its wings to Chicago. Dina was totally genuine and had a heart of gold; I believe she saw that I was truthful and pure of heart, too.
I can honesty say that I was blown away when, at the end of the night, during the last soiree in which I was in Dina’s presence, she searched for me to give me her personal phone number and email address. Earlier that day I had asked her if she’d be a guest on our “Ay, Mama!” radio show, and I fully expected her to regretfully and respectfully decline, but to the contrary, she eagerly said yes.
Unfortunately, when she agreed to it, we weren’t in a situation where I could take down her contact info. So, I was sure I’d missed the window and expected her to “forget” about giving it to me…
Just goes to show what a class act she is. She went out of her way to track me down so we could exchange information. She promised to do the show and she lived up to her end of the deal. She was great! Did you hear the interview? If not, listen here.
After hanging out during The Rally and interviewing her on the radio show, I felt pretty cool about our newfound friendship. But, it was another chance encounter that had us believing in fate and God’s supernatural plan for us.
More to come on that in my next few blogs…
As a side note, of course, Dina isn’t my first celebrity friend. Both old and new friends ask how the heck I personally know Ana Belaval from WGN-TV, too. Yes, I’m talking about THE Ana Belaval, our Monday blogger and local celebrity. Believe me, when I first saw her at Gymboree, I was star-struck. I got nervous just saying, “Hi!” I mean, she’s Ana from “Around Town”, the super funny, incredibly witty, talented TV reporter… and now, she’s my friend; one of the best!
I guess I’ve gotten pretty lucky with my “chance meetings” a few times now.
My Next Blog > "Holy Hell! She's Possessed!"
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