A Conversation with Jaime Primak Sullivan of Jersey Belle
I can’t remember a time in all the years I’ve written about reality TV where I thought I'd want to be friends with someone I was watching. There are many I would want to hang out with, have dinner with, make out with, but there are none I think I could actually be friends with in real life. Not until Jaime Primak Sullivan from Bravo’s Jersey Belle.
I spoke with the lovely Mrs. Sullivan this week and she was everything I wanted her to be, plus she threw in a few interesting surprises. Anyone who speaks with Jaime will feel like they are talking to an old friend. She is relatable and a firecracker. Talking to her is like riding a rollercoaster in the dark because you never now what turn you’ll take.
Jaime is one of four kids born to a Jewish Dad and an Italian Catholic mother. Her mother converted to Judaism to marry her dad, and to hear Jaime speak of her parents made me laugh and cry. Her parents were married 24 years before her dad passed away after a battle against lung cancer. The passing of her father when she was only 16 changed her.
I asked when her parents got married and she called her mom. I heard her say to her mom, “Ma, Ma, when were you married? Okay, I love you. I’ll call you later. Love you. Bye. Yes. Bye. Yes. Bye.” It sounded like I was talking to my own mom, or that we were neighbors on the stoop in Brooklyn and she was screaming into the house.
Jaime had a carnival themed Bat Mitzvah and can still recite her Torah portion. She even did a year of graduate work at university on History of Jewish Studies. She is not a practicing Jew today, but she is Jewish in her soul and worldview. One can be Jewish and not religious as Jews are more than just the religion of Judaism. I have written about that a lot.
Her paternal Jewish grandparents lived in Florida and they didn't see them very often. Her maternal grandparents were Catholic immigrants from Italy who lived in Manhattan and played a pivital role in her upbringing. She celebrated holidays of both religions in her family and along her journey through life came to value faith.
Jaime says once a Jew always a Jew and there are aspects of her worldview that are the same as her dad's, as are others the same as her mom. She was taught by her Italian grandparents that loyalty to the family meant everything. She is fiercely loyal to her family, friends, and clients. She fights for the right thing and cheers on the underdog.
She grew up in a house full of love and life. There was laughter, joy, and yelling. Jaime was not a mild mannered kid, had opinions and views, and got into a little trouble as a kid. She was a wild child and her father getting sick changed things. She cries openly when speaking of her dad and it is crushing as she sounds like her 16 year old self.
Jaime’s father wanted her to be in the school play, which was not her thing. She auditioned for him as she wanted to make him happy. Not surprisingly, Jaime got the lead. Lewis Primak was 53 when he stopped smoking, when his daughter got the lead in the play, and when he passed away, only ten days before opening night. Jaime was broken.
After spending weeks hating the play and not being invested, her dad died and the play suddenly mattered. It was what he wanted and she wanted to make him proud. He had told her she was going to be a star and it is bittersweet he's not here to see her life now. I believe he watches over her of course, but it is not the same thing. Cancer is mean.
Jaime had a lot of years where she was self-destructive. She did not care about a lot of things, dated men who were not good for her, and did not reach her potential or understand her worth. She was lost. She became uninterested in religion and though working on her career, she was not invested in anything or anyone, herself included. Then came Michael.
Her husband Michael made her see life in a bigger way. He taught her to slow down, embrace quiet, and see her value. Growing up Jaime saw real love in the way her dad looked at her mother and for the first time she was able to see it again in the way Michael looked at her. In rediscovering this gift from her dad, she was able to embrace love.
The longer Jaime is married the more Michael reminds her of her dad and the deep loss. It breaks her heart her dad never got to meet Michael and their children. Like her dad was with her mother, Michael is happiest with a glass of scotch, watching his wife work a room. He loves all the parts of her one would think make them not match.
The road to love for Jaime was tough and in speaking with her you are quickly on her side. You feel genuine happiness for her that this is where she is in her life and that she has real joy and personal and professional success. Not one to take an easy path, it turns out the road to Jersey Belle was also winding and complicated. That;s how Jaime rolls.
Jaime was living in Alabama and working as a celebrity publicist. She was working on small projects, including planning a holiday party for Adrienne Maloof from RHOBH. Those jobs got her feet wet again in the celebrity world and people started to ask where she had been as many did not know she moved to Alabama. It was back on for Jaime.
She was approached about doing a show about being a publicist, but that wasn't interesting to her. By now she had built a circle of friends in Birmingham and felt that was the real show. These were real friendships, not fabricated through casting. She is a fish out of water in the south and that leads to good TV, unusual for the reality genre.
Reality TV is often dark, while Jersey Belle is light. It is an escape for an hour a week to watch people who are relatable. I have nothing in common with these southern women, yet I relate to them. From being a single mom, dealing with the struggles of having a baby, and accepting a not so great mother-in-law, these ladies unite us as women.
You never know what Jaime is going to say and that is comedy gold. Everyone on social media talks about how Jersey she is, but I would argue she is just as Jewish as she is Jersey. She’s charming, funny, bold, and a spitting image of Punky Brewster. I’d like to have dinner with her and Soleil Moon Frye, just to prove they are two different people.
If you like reality TV and want to step away from the housewife drama, I recommend you check out Jersey Belle on Bravo Monday nights. If you're watching, how much do you love these chicks? It was nice to speak with Jaime and I learned a lot about her. She is open and kind and not afraid to share her life in a personal way. She is a mensch.
Jaime Primark Sullivan is a PR guru, wife, mother, daughter, sister, friend, and TV star. In her spare time she should write a book about how to open yourself to meeting a man who is good for you, which is the problem for so many women. I will watch her show, and read that book if she ever writes it, because Jaime is a master at keeping it real.