WHEN I WAS A KID, I WAS A BIT OF A TOMBOY. I rode little dirt bikes. I wanted to be like a little Evel Knievel. I loved that kind of stuff. I met him later on in life. He became a customer of Gold & Diamond Source, and he used to eat at the restaurant my ex-husband and I had. I was always wanting to do tricks on motorcycles and things like that. I swore that was what I was going to do when I grew up.
I WAS BORN IN LONDON, ENGLAND, AND I’M FROM BRIGHTON, ENGLAND. That’s where my whole family lived. I moved here when I was 6 or 7 years old. My father was recruited by Baxter. He’s a plastics engineer. I remember my dad told me we were moving, and I was like, where are we moving? What’s going on? My whole family was there. My cousin and I were very close. He said, we live on this little tiny island. We’re going to this big, huge country.
MY FATHER IS ORIGINALLY FROM EAST INDIA. My mother is English and Welsh all the way back. It’s been interesting enjoying the British side of my culture and my blond haired, blue-eyed relatives and the Indian culture, which is so different. It’s really kind of interesting knowing that both of your cultures are so different.
I ALWAYS PICTURED MYSELF RUNNING A BUSINESS. I would always envision myself carrying a briefcase and wearing a suit. I don’t know why. I always thought, I’m going to work hard and I’m going to be somebody. As soon as I turned 18 I was going to real estate school, and I became a licensed Realtor by 19 years old. I was taking multimillion-dollar listings before I was even old enough to drink beer. I handled the Pepin estates that were worth millions of dollars. I would always wear a suit and put my hair up in a bun and carry a briefcase, so they all thought I was older. I think at the time they discovered [my age], I was 20. One time they said, here, have a beer. I hesitated, and I had to tell them I wasn’t 21. [Art and Tom Pepin, owners of beer distributing company Pepin Distributing,] were dying [laughing] because I was handling multiple residences of theirs. They were like, oh my god, you’re not even old enough to drink beer. I was always a little bit of a go-getter.
STEVE AND I GOT MARRIED IN 2004. In the beginning, I had an interior design company. I did well at that. I said, you do your job, I’m doing my job, I’m not combining careers. But when the real estate market crashed, all the people that were buying homes and buying furniture from me disappeared… My company was struggling at that point, and so was Gold & Diamond Source. We were debating bankruptcy at Gold & Diamond Source. We decided to start buying gold. We said, let’s do a commercial and let people know who we are and that we pay a fair price for people’s gold. We did that, and our business took off. We ended up buying over $40 million worth of gold over the next few years from doing those commercials. It just evolved from there.
WHEN PEOPLE CALL ME A CELEBRITY, IT USED TO MAKE ME UNCOMFORTABLE. I’d think, what are you talking about? I’m just a business owner doing commercials. Then finally I thought, if people are going to give me attention, I have something to say. So I started trying to speak for people who don’t have a voice [through my charity Hands Across the Bay]. I really enjoy being able to do that. When I go into a courtroom and there’s a mother in there who’s been violently abused, and she has no attorney and [the accused] has a super attorney on his side, and the judge sees I’m advocating on that case, they know I help give her a voice. They know that the media is a call away. People are watching. Bad things happen in dark places. I really enjoy utilizing whatever “celebrity” status I’ve been given for something useful.
TAMPA BAY IS A BEAUTIFUL, LOVING PLACE. I say it’s like living in Busch Gardens. Everybody is super friendly and kind. I’ve lived a lot of different places, and this is my favorite place. You’d have to drag me out.
PROBABLY THE FURTHEST AWAY, MOST RANDOM PLACE SOMEONE RECOGNIZED US WAS PARIS. We were taking a picture right by the Eiffel Tower, and all of a sudden I heard someone yell “Gold & Diamond Source!” I was like, oh my god. All the way in Paris. That was really crazy to have gone that far [and been recognized].
MY SECRET TALENT, WHICH MAKES PEOPLE LAUGH, IS JUGGLING. I’m not a great juggler, but I do that, and it cracks people up. It’s such a weird, random thing. Also, I’m oddly really good at basketball games [like HORSE] and shooting hoops. It’s a fun party trick. People think they’re going to beat me. Even Dexter Jackson [the former NFL player and] MVP of the Super Bowl, he came over once, and I beat him at the basketball game. He wanted a rematch.
I LOVE TO COOK, BUT I’M NOT A VERY GOOD COOK. But I love to cook our Thanksgiving or Christmas dinner. It’s my favorite thing, cooking our turkey and all the sides. We have between 22 and 30 people over for the holidays. That’s really fun. Shepherd’s pie is the other thing. Everybody likes me to make that for them.
I WOULD LOVE TO BE ABLE TO WAKE UP TOMORROW AND FIND THE WORDS AND WISDOM TO END DOMESTIC VIOLENCE. [To] bring everybody together and have people not think that being violent toward each other was an option, [make them see] the collateral damage from that, the toll on kids and men and society. People think it’s a women’s problem, and it’s not.