From Plainview to Paramus: Long Island's Jennifer Aydin is now a new cast member of "The Real Housewives of New Jersey," premiering its ninth season Wednesday at 9 p.m. on Bravo.
"They're like, 'You're from Staten Island?' " says Aydin, 41, of meeting her castmates. "No, not Staten Island!" she says in mock indignation. "Listen to my voice! I have that Long Island accent!"
Aydin does sound like a typical Long Islander, despite the Turkish and occasional Arabic that her immigrant parents spoke at home while she and her three siblings were growing up.
And speaking of her heritage, Aydin said, "I'm what's called Aramaean or some people like to say Assyrian," she says of her ancient ancestry, referring to the Semitic people that originated in present-day Syria and stretched to south-central Turkey before the Neo-Assyrian Empire absorbed them by the ninth century BC. "It's a lot easier for me to just say I'm Turkish," she chuckles.
On her slice of the "Real Housewives" franchise, Aydin is "the funny girl," she says. "That's my thing on the show … I used to tell people I'm a closet comedian. My husband says, 'You're not in the closet, people know!' Good point!"
The mother of five, married to plastic surgeon Dr. N. Bill Aydin, was born in Flushing, Queens, the second child of John and Josephine Altinel. Her family moved to Plainview when Jennifer was about 3 years old. There she graduated from John F. Kennedy High School in 1995, and Hofstra University's Frank G. Zarb School of Business five years later.
Her maiden name translates to "gold hand," which fits with what has been the family vocation for five generations. '"My dad was a jeweler, and made jewelry with his hands," Aydin says. "He used to work for a company that made jewelry for Tiffany and A&S, and because he got these big accounts he was able to save enough money to buy a house in Plainview."
When her father semi-retired, her older brother Michael took over the family's Woodbury jewelry store, John Michaels.Their younger sister, Tina Profita, spent seven years as an attorney before becoming the office manager for Dr. Aydin's practice in Paramus. The youngest sibling, Steven, is the choral director at Walt Whitman High School in South Huntington and the founder and artistic director of the Long Island Musical Theatre Festival.
Aydin joined "The Real Housewives" through acquaintanceship with two of the cast members. "Melissa Gorga, we've shared the same hairstylist for years," she says. "And Dolores [Catania] worked at this one surgery center" as a surgical technician, "and when my husband would be there, she was on staff, so they knew each other."
A mutual friend formally introduced Catania to devoted "Housewives" fan Aydin at "a birthday party about a year ago. I looked at my husband, like, 'You never recognized her from the TV screen when I'm watching?' "
The two cast members, Aydin says, "thought I would be great for 'The Real Housewives of New Jersey.' Very smart women. Very smart!" They introduced her to the producers, and as the ever-jocular Aydin puts it, "What's not to love?!"
Her singing voice maybe? "My brother Steven, he knows the show. He's like, 'Don't do any of those crazy things like some of the women do!' 'Like what?' 'Like make sure you don't sing a song!' I'm, like, 'Gee, thanks!' "