Erika Jayne: Before And After Becoming A Real Housewife

Erika Jayne is a television personality on "The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills," a singer who's held concerts and appeared on Broadway and has recently found herself in the press a lot for her ex-husband's legal troubles. She's been through a lot of changes throughout the years. Erika grew up in Atlanta Georgia attending a performing arts high school with the dream of becoming famous — and she accomplished it. She's even completed a successful headlining concert tour called The Pretty Mess Tour, in cities like Dallas, San Francisco, Los Angeles, and Chicago.

Erika has been an influential member of the "RHOBH" cast since she joined in 2015 for the sixth season of the franchise. She is known and loved by "RHOBH" fans for her fierceness and honesty as well as her formerly extremely lavish lifestyle. She's created many friends like Lisa Rinna and Dorit Kemsley but has also butted heads with some of the newer Housewives, like Sutton Stracke and Garcelle Beauvais. But how did she even make it onto reality TV and get to where she is today? 

Erika Jayne had a rocky childhood

Erika was born in Atlanta, Georgia, and attended North Atlanta High School for the Performing Arts. Her childhood was rocky — her biological father left shortly after Erika's mom, Renee, gave birth to her. "I don't think my father wanted to be a dad. He was a mechanic at a car dealership in the town at that time and he wanted a different life for himself," Erika wrote in her memoir, "Pretty Mess" (via Bravo). Renee ended up marrying again, and Erika had a good relationship with her stepdad. He eventually ended up adopting Erika, despite his rocky relationship with her mother. Renee and Erika moved to New York City when the "RHOBH" was 18 years old.

In a 2013 interview with 303 Magazine, Erika described the hardships she faced after moving from Georgia to New York City: "Basically, I was doing any job I could just to stay alive. A lot of extra work. I was a starving artist." Erika tried to get into acting and performing but was unsuccessful at making it big. According to Bravo, she danced at New Jersey go-go clubs to make enough money for rent. To make ends meet, she also picked up other jobs — like joining a band.

Erika Jayne met her first husband when she was 19

As Erika Jayne detailed in her memoir, "Pretty Mess," coming out of a divorced home influenced the way she handled her first marriage. While in New York and at only 19 years old, she met her first husband, Tommy Zizzo, with whom she had a son (via OK! magazine). Being a young mom and a young wife was tough on Erika.

"I feel like my marriage came apart because of me, not because of anyone else. I can take responsibility. ... I thought I was adult enough to be a wife and a mother, but really I wasn't. Tommy bore the brunt of that," Erika wrote (via E! News). Erika explained that she and Tom split up when their son was a year and a half old. She continued, writing, "I came out of a divorced home. I did what I knew, which was to take my son and leave."

Erika Jayne packed her bags for LA

In 1996, Erika Jayne left New York as a newly divorced single mom, according to The New York Times. She had attempted to make it big with her acting and singing career in New York but came out with a failed attempt and a failed marriage. She left the state for Los Angeles, California, and it wasn't long before she met another man named Tom.

According to the Los Angeles Times, Erika worked as a cocktail waitress at Chasen's in West Hollywood, which is where she met her second husband, Tom Girardi. The 27-year-old waitress hit it off with Tom, despite their 32-year age gap. People detailed that a few months after Tom and Erika met, she moved in with him. Six months after that, Tom proposed and the two were married in 1999. They married at Chasen's, the same restaurant where they met. The two were married for 21 years before they split. Tom even appeared in some episodes of "RHOBH," but the couple mostly kept their relationship off screen.

She embarked on a music career at 35

In total, Erika Jayne has had nine No. 1 hits. Her first song to reach No. 1 on the Billboard Dance Club Songs chart was titled "Roller Coaster" in 2007. Her most popular include "Pretty Mess," "Party People (Ignite the World)," "Get It Tonight," which features Flo Rida, "How Many F**ks," and "XXpen$ive."

In an interview with People, Erika discussed the criticism she received for starting her career in pop so late. "People told me I was insane," she said. "Erika Jayne was born out of rebellion. I like to break the rules." At 35 years old, she launched her music career. While not everyone has been approving of her starting her dream career later than her cohorts, she was nevertheless able to have a successful career with multiple hit songs.

She also attributes some of her success to longtime creative director, Mikey Minden, who has worked with the likes of Pitbull, Pink, Keyshia Cole, and Usher according to his website. He's been a part of Erika's team since they met in 2009 and has always been someone she can count on. "Well, Mikey [Minden]'s, you know, forever a friend ... and I'm so appreciative of that because it's been hard on me and I've leaned on him," Erika told Bravo's Daily Dish.

In 2015, she became a Housewife

Erika Jayne joined the "Real Housewives" franchise in 2015 and first appeared on the "Beverly Hills" iteration in Season 6, right after Kim Richards and Brandi Glanville departed from the franchise. She was introduced as a friend of former Housewife Yolanda Foster, since she and her then-husband Tom Giradi were friends with Yolanda and then-husband David Foster. She's played a major role in some big scandals on the show but always kept her fans entertained.

"You know, some of my behavior was not great, but it's also very real," Erika told Us Weekly regarding her behavior in Season 12. "It's also part of life, and I wouldn't be the first person that this happened to and won't be the last." Erika opened up to Us Weekly about some of the problems she had during the season, which included mixing alcohol and antidepressants. This came after season 11 — a very emotional and difficult time in Erika's personal life. She also dealt with more than her fair share of castmate drama.

She published a book in 2018

Not only is she a singer, performer and reality tv star, but Erika Jayne is also a published author. In 2018, the "RHOBH" star published a memoir that gives fans an inside look into her normally pretty private life. In the book, she details losing her virginity at an early age, her experiences with her first husband, being a young mom, experimenting with a married couple, and marrying a man decades her senior (via E! Online).

Erika even reveals in the memoir that she never even read her "RHOBH" contract or watched an episode of the show before she joined the franchise. "I might have signed my soul away and had no clue at all," she wrote. "Oh well, who needs a soul anyway?" (via Entertainment Tonight). "Pretty Mess" also goes into detail about how she Erika hired just two weeks after Yolanda Foster introduced her to producers of "RHOBH." They told her she would be a full-time cast member and get to hold a diamond in the opening credits.

Erika Jayne filed for divorce in 2020

In 2020, Erika Jayne told Us Weekly that she had decided to divorce her husband, Tom Girardi. In an episode of "RHOBH" titled "The Liberation of Erika Jayne," Erika opens up to some of her castmates about her divorce and attempts to explain what is going on as much as she (legally) can.

"Well, okay, let's discuss the elephant in the room," she said to some of the housewives cast members at the start of the episode (via Today). "Yeah, so my life drastically changed this week. I let go of the Lamborghini. I let go of my 16,000 square foot home, I let go of my marriage, I let go of everything." Tom was served with divorce papers the morning after she moved out, and she revealed to her friends there were ongoing legal woes that prevented her from saying much more.

During the episode, she also recalled a story about Tom that gave fans insight into their fraught relationship. When showing up late a to a dinner with her husband and other men, she apologized for being late, explaining she was stuck in traffic. One of the men remarked, "Well, if you were married to a better man, traffic would be no problem." And as for Tom's response? "Tom straight looked at him across the table and said, 'Well, if you think you can afford her, you can have her,' and it flew right out of his mouth."

She found herself in legal trouble around the time of her divorce

Amidst their divorce, both Erika Jayne and Tom Girardi have found themselves experiencing multiple legal woes, with the exes being named in quite a few lawsuits.

Arguably, one of Tom's most talked about legal battles is a lawsuit that claims he embezzled funds from several families who lost family members in a 2018 plane crash. This is the subject of the Hulu documentary released on June 14, 2021, called "The Housewife and The Hustler." The documentary interviewed Tom's victims who claimed they never received settlement money from him. The documentary inquires into how much Erika knew about Tom's sketchy legal activities — if she even knew anything at all. She lived a lifestyle of lavishness and luxury during her marriage to Tom, and critics and lawyers alike can't help pointing out that his legal crimes may have paid for these things (via Women's Health).

Additionally, Erika was served with a $50 million racketeering lawsuit when she arrived at LAX in July 2022, according to Page Six. The lawsuit involves charges including racketeering, conspiracy to commit racketeering, and unlawful business practice and deceit in relation to the ongoing legal drama with her ex-husband Tom Girardi.

Erika Jayne isn't going anywhere soon

In late August 2022, Erika Jayne won a $5 million lawsuit brought against her by lawyers Philip R. Sheldon and Robert P. Finn, two of her ex-husband's former colleagues. Erika's attorney, Evan C. Borges, told Page Six that Los Angeles Judge Richard Fruin found no evidence of any wrongdoing on he rpart. 

Despite battling it out in the courts, Erika has continued to be a force on of "RHOBH." She has formed a new friendship with Housewife Diana Jenkins and has remained close with Housewives Dorit Kemsley and Lisa Rinna. Erika also launched a line of Pretty Mess Hair extensions — her newest business venture. On "Real Housewives of Beverly Hills," Erika is always seen sporting a new wig, long extensions, or trying a completely different color from her usual icy blonde locks, so who better to create a hair extension line? "Life can be pretty messy sometimes, but if we sprinkle in some glitz, glamour and fantasy for ourselves, we can have our own Pretty Mess escape — freely and unapologetically — anytime we want," Pretty Mess Hair declares.

Additionally, Erika confirmed to Bravo in August 2022 that she's back in the studio. "So I'm back making music," she explained. "And that means we'll be back to making visuals and shows. It's pretty strong. It's kind of like my punk rock era without being punk rock about it" We're excited to see what's in store for Erika, both on and off the screen!