Lisa Gastineau on Divorce and Being in Business With Daughter Brittny

Filed under: Celeb News & Interviews

Lisa and Brittany Gastineau Picture

Lisa and Brittny Gastineau were reality stars before the Kardashians hit the scene. Credit: John Shearer, WireImage

Long before "Keeping Up with the Kardashians," there were "The Gastineau Girls."

The reality show, which aired from 2005 to 2006, followed single mom Lisa Gastineau and her only daughter, Brittny, and chronicled their lives in New York City.

But while Lisa Gastineau was portrayed as having the perfect life on TV, she says her real story has been far from flawless.

When she was 17, her 15-year-old sister Joanie, died following a heart transplant. At 27, Gastineau says she discovered her then-husband, Mark Gastineau who played for the New York Jets, in her bed with another woman. In 2006, the same year she lost her mother and best friend, Joan D'Amico, to cancer, Gastineau herself was diagnosed with skin cancer.

Despite her heartaches, Gastineau, 50, tells ParentDish all of the dark moments helped make her the person she is today.

ParentDish: You have taken you fair share of punches.
Lisa Gastineau: (Laughs) Yes, I have.

PD: I can't even imagine what it's like to lose a sibling at such a young age.
LG: It was my life-changing moment. You never get over it and I will never stop missing her.
When you grow up with someone who has a chronic illness, your childhood is very different than what you imagine. Times were so different back then. There was no such thing as a cell phone, BlackBerry or Internet, so we kept everyone close to home.

PD: Did a lot of the focus in your home center on Joanie's illness?
LG: My whole life was about Joanie being sick. Protecting her and taking care of her was our main focus because she needed our help. I had to grow up and mature very quickly and, as a result, it created a very different structure in my household.

PD: What was Joanie like?
LG: I was the scrappy, obnoxious, cheerleader teenager. Joanie was the kind and generous one. If someone gave her two Barbie dolls, Joanie would always offer one to me. She was so wonderful.

PD: Then you met and tied the knot with a big superstar?
LG: I was 19 years old when I married Mark, who was 23 at the time. We were married seven years before we separated and 11 years in total.

PD: Did you suspect Mark was cheating?
LG: I wanted to believe what he was saying when I had my suspicions. But, then, when I walked in on him at my house in Arizona, I remember being so raged and yelling, "What are you going to tell me now?" It was right there in front of me and now there was no way out.

PD: How old was Brittny when this happened?
LG: She was 4 years old and was with my parents in New York while I flew to Arizona.

PD: Did Brittny understand what was happening?
LG: She was smart enough to know we were fighting.

PD: And because Mark chose not to be involved in your daughter's life, you instantly became a single mom?
LG: Yes, but I was so grateful I had the support of my mom, dad and my mom's sister, Nina. I mean, Brittny never called Mark "Daddy." She called him "Mark."

PD: Was it difficult to be a single mother at a young age?
LG: What was difficult was we were still very much in the spotlight, so that was hard. People assumed there was all of this great wealth because of who we were, but that was not the case. Money was a struggle and I had to chase him into different states to get child support and alimony. And despite all of my efforts to get him to pay for school, tutors, camp, college, health insurance and clothes, I wound up doing it myself because he never gave me a dime. It was traumatic.

PD: Have you gotten over the anger of what Mark did?
LG: You never get over the anger because he deprived my child of what she was entitled to.

PD: You are like Wonder Woman.
LG: Mark being a terrible parent made me the only parent, so I had to be everything. What was really difficult was when I lost my mother. My mom, Brittny and me were a triangle and now that she is not here that part of the picture is gone.

PD: Had you not gone through a horrible divorce, do you think you and Brittny would be in business together and living together?
LG: Good question. I don't know. There are things, I think, that would be the same, but I do think Brittny and I bonded more because of what we went through.

PD: You lost your mom in August of 2006.
LG: That was devastating. She was always my first phone call of the day.

PD: Then, in December that same year, you were diagnosed with cancer?
LG: Yes. I discovered a dark spot on my leg just before I was taking Brittny to the doctor to get treatment for a fungus under a toenail. While I was there, I showed the doctor the mark and soon learned it was cancer.

PD: Do you have a family history of having melanoma?
LG: No, but I think tanning beds played a big part because not only did I have one, but I had basal cells in other places. I always say Brittny's toenail fungus was a blessing.

PD: When did you decide to form Tres Glam, your jewelry line?
LG: When I was married, I had a high-end costume jewelry and accessories store in Woodbury, N.Y., called Lisa's Pieces, and another in West Hampton with a business partner. When Brittny and I formed Tres Glam in 2006, instead of buying the items, we decided to actually design them.

PD: Who is your target audience?
LG: It is completely fine jewelry. The pieces are all 18-carat, diamond and gemstone pieces and can be found at Object 'dArts & Spirit in Los Angeles.

PD: With so many well-known designers branching out to retail giants like Target and Kohl's, is that something you and Brittny would consider doing?
LG: Yes, that is the plan.

PD: What are the pros and cons of partnering with your daughter?
LG: The pros are you are one-minded. You both want to build something together. Because we are different generations, Brittny will give her perspective from her age group, which is invaluable to making a business a success. The cons are it is your daughter, it is your mother and we sometimes have different philosophies.

PD: Now that you are in a good place in your life, do you feel like you made it?
LG: The most empowering thing I have ever done in my life was become a mother. I am also so proud to be a dedicated daughter and now have a rewarding career that gives me great pleasure and (allows me to) grow as a person.


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