Now she's gay? That's what a lot of Real Housewives diehards (myself included) were thinking aside from, "Wow! I didn't know Danielle Staub could sing!" after reality TV's notorious New Jersey rabble-rouser, 47, performed her first single, "Real Close," on Bravo's Watch What Happens Live!
Following the surprise debut, Staub joined host Andy Cohen for some follow-up questions -- while sitting on the lap of her duet partner, noted lesbian singer-songwriter Lori Michaels, 37. Even more wild, Staub played coy about just how personal their relationship has become when it seemed pretty obvious. Well, I had to get to the bottom of Staub's latest move to go all Kim Zolciak on Us by recording a decent -- by Housewives standards -- track and falling for her female producer.
I spoke exclusively to Michaels following the show to find out more about her, what's behind this latest Staubian display and her thoughts on Staub's recently leaked sex tape.
UsMagazine.com: I've known Danielle for a long time and this is the first I knew she could sing! But you've had quite a career already.
Lori Michaels: I started my career as a kid, but didn't take it really public until I came out a couple of years ago. My debut album hit in 2008 and prior to that I had a few independently-released singles.
Us: How did you meet Danielle?
LM: I met Danielle last summer at the Nokia Theater, backstage at an event I was performing at. I had never even watched the show, but I approached her anyway, exchanged information with her, gave her my CD, and never heard from her. We coincidentally ran into each other [again] at a diner after I filmed my music video for my marriage equality campaign. She remembered me and told me her daughter, Jillian, wanted to be a singer. I wrote a song for Jillian and in the midst of that, Danielle asked to hear my other songs. She fell in love with "Real Close" and asked if she could sing it with me.
Us: All the Housewives try to sing lately, and it's usually pretty bad. And I was expecting another bad single!
LM: People have commented that she wasn't singing live. There was a little echo in her vocal, but everything else was all her. I was really proud of her -- she pulled it off. She nailed it. So I think that's what really shocked a lot of people.
Us: What's next for her? A full album?
LM: Well, that's a surprise to me as well as to everyone else. I say that in the most loving way. The thing I love about Danielle is that when she wants to do something, she puts forth everything and just goes for it. She's expressed some interest in wanting to do more with music and wanting to collaborate on other projects going beyond us doing a duet, obviously.
Us: During the performance, you seemed like a romantic couple. Thoughts?
LM: To be honest, when you watch the show, I was taken aback. I didn't even think I was going to be sitting down doing this interview. Obviously, we've gotten real close while working together. But I've gotten into a lot of trouble with gay and straight interviews, talking about my girlfriends and my personal life, so I'm not comment on the nature of the relationship right now. We are real close.
Us: Danielle's fellow Housewives are all criticizing her, saying she's using this new lesbian status for publicity. What do you think?
LM: Danielle is Danielle. She's really rolling with this right now and doing whatever she feels and whatever she wants to do. I don't think it's a publicity thing, but Danielle's going to be Danielle. Aside from the Housewives, the general opinion is you either love or hate her. I've seen many sides of her. I don't think that this is a big scam or a big make-believe anything...I think this is a different Danielle we are seeing.
Us: Are you worried about getting involved with a straight woman?
LM: I've been involved with a lot of straight women! I was asked to help her daughter, we met, we hit it off. I was flattered when Danielle fell in love with my song. Who wouldn't want an opportunity? Like I said, I was very excited about doing the song with her, but she surprised even me. She plays a great villain, and she sang a great love song.
Us: Are you worried about getting emotionally close to a straight woman in a relationship?
LM: No. I'm not worried at all. I'm enjoying this wild ride as much as I can. Danielle's a very generous woman and very passionate about the music. I'm really excited and embracing the moment.
Us: Danielle was in the news for a sex tape she says was leaked. Do you have any thoughts about it?
LM: All I have to say is that the person in the sex tape is not me. Apparently he has a really big butt, or it looks really great. I haven't seen it. I've got to be honest, I don't know if I'll ever see it, but it's not me. My grandmother just exhaled.
Us: Do you think she put it out herself?
LM: I have no doubt that she knew she was taping something with someone, because from the few clips I found, she was holding the camera. She tells me that she was aware she was making a tape with this person. I don't even know who this person is. Right now it's in Danielle's hands.
Us: You obviously get along great with her daughters, and they love you.
LM: That's how this all started...Jillian and I really connect on a great level. She's working with a music coach right now. And we've had her working with trained professionals to help her project along. And I'm probably closer to Jillian, but I've spent time with the family and all of them, getting to know the Staub girls.
Us: Any other plans? Are you going to move in?
LM: No no. No plans to move in.
Us: And you don't have any other girlfriends?
LM: No. As I said, cousins are coming out of the woodwork. Dating? Yes. I'm just enjoying this and seeing what comes of this. You might find out before me!