Florida-based Dr. Nadine Macaluso, known as Dr. Nae, is a Brooklyn-born and raised powerhouse who became a thriving psychologist. Macaluso experienced a life that one can only view in a motion picture. Many knew her as Nadine Caridi, the Duchess of Bayridge, and of course, one of the most popular references she’s received: the ex-wife of Jordan Belfort, who was known as the infamous Wolf of Wall Street. The marriage between Macaluso and Belfort was a turbulent eight-year commitment full of abuse, greed, drugs, and trauma. However, there is a silver lining to all the pain, as Macaluso gained two blessings from her marriage with Belfort; her children Chandler Winter and Carter Belfort. Not only did she survive her marriage with the Wolf, but transformed herself into the wounded healer who developed a passion for assisting others in creating vitality in their lives.
I had the pleasure of having an empowering conversation with Macaluso on her life journey, where we discussed who she was prior to marrying Belfort, the true essence of her marriage with Belfort, her thoughts on the “Wolf of Wall Street” movie, and more.
Dr. Nae. Prior to being a therapist, I know you were a model. What got you into modeling?
I grew up in the 1970’s in Brooklyn, which by the way was a great time. I was raised by a single mother and what really got me into modeling was money because I needed money. I graduated high school at 17 years old and my parents were like “Ok…you’re on your own”. I was working in the city and going to school and it was so much work and so expensive to live in the city even then. I was also working at Barney’s at the time. Then I just started to model and work in commercials. It was great because I didn’t enjoy the work, however, I had money and some security.
Why didn’t you really enjoy modeling?
First of all, I am naturally an introvert. Hence, why I love to write, research, and I am a therapist. It’s tough when you model in New York City because you are up against some of the most beautiful women in the world and you really need to have the thick skin of an elephant to go on ten “go sees”, as we called them back in the day, then to get rejected 99% of the time. Then it was just really boring once you did it. The commercials were more fun because they were live and you were animated, however, it was just boring and not intellectually stimulating. I got my Masters and Doctorate because I love to learn. For all those reasons it was challenging, but modeling was good to me and I am grateful for that.
As a former model, what can you tell models that don’t actually want to be in the industry and want to pursue something else?
I would just advise them to save their money so they can do something that is very fulfilling. Modeling does serve its purpose and we do need money to live in the world. Growing up poor in Brooklyn at a very young age, modeling was something that did help me out. The girls should save their money and go towards their dreams. I say that when you want to do something, just go for it.
What drove you to becoming a therapist?
My mother was very psychological. When I was a young girl she was always talking to me about Jung and Freud, feelings, nature or nurture, and more, which I am very grateful for because she was very progressive. What happened was that I was a model at the time and as the story goes, I was in the Hamptons with a boyfriend I had at the time and met my first husband, Jordan, known as the Wolf of Wall Street. I was 22 when I met him, married him at 23, and was pregnant with my daughter at 24. While being pregnant with my daughter, Jordan had a minor back surgery and he took too many pills and was in a rehab for a weekend. I remember going to his therapist because I was 24 years old and pregnant, and his therapist told me, “When Jordan works, he’s like a-symphony and when he doesn’t, he is a natural disaster.” Of course, I wanted to keep talking to him the whole time because I had never been to therapy before. Once my time was up, his therapist suggested I should talk to someone. Right at that moment at 24 years old, I entered into therapy and then I stayed throughout my whole first marriage, which was tumultuous as the movie depicts. I always say that therapy allowed me to manage and survive that crazy time. I believe it saved my life and I am so grateful.
What were the challenges of getting married at such a young age?
I was young and a naive babe in the woods. At 24, you think you’re smart when you don’t really know anything…and that’s ok. What happened was that I stepped in a world that I realized was way beyond to me. I did not grow up wealthy and here I am living in suburbia with a 10,000 square foot house, a limo driver, a housekeeper, and more help, which I didn’t know how to talk to and set boundaries with. It was just a whole new world I had stepped into. Again, I am the type of person that loves information and education, but then my ex-husband was so dramatic and erratic, not initially, but with his behavior as the relationship went on. He had a severe drug addiction, and that was something I was clueless with handling. I also had a baby coming and I just wanted to be a really good mother. There were so many reasons for me to go to therapy because there was no way I was going to manage this marriage, this life, and I just needed support. Overall, this is why I went to therapy.
Nowadays, do you get along with Jordan?
Jordan and I have been really good parents and the proof of that is in our kids. Jordan and I have our moments…at times we get along great, and at times we don’t. Before the book and movie came out, we got along really well. I just always made the decision that my children would have a father because that was really important to me. Through the book and the movie, we had our bumps along the way. At the end of the day, we are both really invested in our children and that’s where we come together. Our daughter actually just got married and we all gathered as a family to celebrate. He truly is a wonderful dad.
It’s also just tricky because my life with him was a real Greek tragedy…that’s the way I perceived it, because certainly as a young girl I did not go into that marriage thinking that it would end. When he wrote the book, Jordan had every right to do what he did, but in a way, I felt it to be the ultimate form of gaslighting as I had endured an abusive relationship with him. Jordan got to have his narrative and I went through it as well, and mine was of course not included, which was fine because I didn’t write the book. It was still challenging, mostly because I wanted my kids to be ok with it.
How did your kids cope with the book launch and movie?
With the book, the kids were a little younger. When the movie came out, my daughter was a freshman in college and my son was a junior in high school. The good news was that I was always very open with them throughout their lives since I was already in therapy. I’m very real…I’m not a secret keeper and my kids just knew what went down.
It was just interesting because in the book Jordan used my name but by the time the movie was coming out, I was just getting my license as a family therapist and it was just an interesting time and they wanted to use my name for the movie. I said no because I wasn’t making any money out of it and didn’t have any creative interest. Due to the fact that the production couldn’t use my name, they got worried, so then Martin Scorcese’s office called me and I told them I wasn’t going to suit them and that my main concern was regarding my kids being ok about this movie. I was already in my late 40’s and getting my Doctorate and my main concern was my kids.
How did you feel Margot Robbie played your part and how did the film differ from actual reality in your life?
The lady who reached out to me that worked at Martin Scorcese’s office also mentioned that Margot Robbie, who played me in the movie, wanted to meet me. It was surreal because the day I took my daughter to college, I met Margot Robbie. Margot met me with her speech coach because she wanted my Brooklyn accent for the part, which was funny because when I was a model I also went for speech lessons. Overall, I feel she did great. My character was very one dimensional and that’s fine, because I honestly felt that is how Jordan always saw me. The movie portrayed me as the pretty young mother who loved her kids, which was the truth. It didn’t show any depth of the character, and that’s ok because that’s not what the movie was about. I thought the way Margot portrayed my Brooklyn accent was funny, which she did a great job on.
As for the movie, it’s always interesting to see your life portrayed in a movie from someone else’s perspective because it was Jordan’s narrative. It’s so funny because I never threw water over his head and we certainly got into fights, but they were about drugs and not about women.
How did you cope with Jordan using drugs while being married to him and having your children at home?
Not very well, however, I handled it well in the sense, because luckily I don’t have an addictive personality. Jordan and I were very much in love and never in my life have I seen drugs like this. It was very challenging because when you are in love with someone in a passionate way, you really believe you can fix them and that the love you have for them will heal them. Addiction, however, is much greater than any love that exists. That was very challenging because when someone you love is doing drugs and you don’t want to see them destroy themselves, it’s very scary. I would reach out to specialists and doctors, but doctors were the ones giving him the drugs. I would try to talk to Jordan, I would scream at him, even steal the drugs from him and hide them, basically everything. So what I did was hire a couples coach for us to go to together. The coach asked us to go back the next day and Jordan didn’t go back, which is what actually changed my life. The coach advised me to either do an intervention with him or leave him because if I didn’t, she said I was going to get cancer. Something in her words snapped at me, which I then resulted in having an intervention on him. It’s different from the movie, but that was the one time Jordan got very violent with me because he didn’t want me to tell him not to do drugs and that was when he kicked me down the stairs and drove my daughter into the car door. But guess what? He did get sober. Jordan had his outbursts, however, he actually ended up in Florida and I hired the two top interventionists in the country and we got him into a rehab because that was the only way he was going to be able to see the children and I. It worked out well.
How was the experience once Jordan returned from rehab?
When he did come back he was sober and I tried to talk to him about how hard it had been for me. Jordan was extremely callous about everything and that was it for me. I was very afraid of Jordan because he was very powerful and had a very wicked temper and wasn’t afraid to use it. He was very threatening and dominating towards me, much less so when once sober, however, he still had that personality. He then got arrested a year later and because he had an ankle bracelet on, I knew I could leave him because I felt safe since he wasn’t able to go after me. That way I was able to leave, and I did.
Once you left, where did you go?
Jordan went to South Hampton and I stayed in our Long Island home. During that time, I had a maternity clothing line. About a year and a half later, I met my second husband on a blind date, who actually lived in California. I really wanted to get my kids out of New York because it wasn’t their legacy to deal with. Therefore, I was able to move my children to California and we restarted our lives there. I was in California for 22 years and the children and I got to have a fresh start.
Nowadays, what are some major changes you’ve done ever since you had your fresh start and how do you feel now that you are an impactful therapist?
I love it! So, I started to meditate a lot and received a thought while meditating, which was that I needed to go back to school. I went back to school in my late 30s to become a therapist. I loved learning so much that I stayed on and got my Doctorate. It has been the most beautiful experience of my life, aside from having my children. I can’t even speak about it in clear terms because there’s just so much love that comes from my heart. When you go through a severe trauma like I did at that age, also having breast cancer at 39, it’s just so much. I always felt that I went through things before my friends, which I was curious about. Every day when I went to work for the past 14 years that I’ve been doing this, I realized why. Aside from my professional acumen, I had a lot of personal experience with trauma and the combination of the professional and personal has really enabled me to be a really good clinician. The ironic thing was that when the movie came out, I was worried that people were going to Google me and see that I was now a therapist. What I did was trust the process and the universe because when people googled me and saw what I went through following with what I became, it made them realize this was the real deal. It’s very easy to be the therapist in the room, but try living your life with those values, morals, and ethics…that’s the challenge. The thing I worried about, ultimately ended up serving me.
How do you feel about giving people second chances in life?
I always give people second chances. I feel that forgiveness frees the person who forgives more so the person you are forgiving. If we hold onto these resentments forever, that’s not healthy for us. Certainly, I could have disliked Jordan for writing the book and making the movie, but that’s not what it’s about. It’s about this being his journey and me being on my own journey and it doesn’t mean I have to love it, but I can accept it. For instance, the day the movie came out, it was Christmas Day and he was actually at my house. Overall, when you forgive somebody, it makes you realize that you aren’t perfect either and gives you the chance to forgive the imperfect places in you too.
What do you look forward to with your upcoming book Trauma Bond Free, A Therapist’s Guide For Healing From Traumatic Love?
I really want to educate people and give them language on terms such as trauma bonds and more. The second half of the book is about the whole process of self-love and self-acceptance, whether you were in a trauma bond or not. I love relationships and I love to love because love is what makes the world go round. We all need to learn how to do it better. I just want everyone to have healthy relationships with themselves and other people.
To keep up with Macaluso, follow her on Instagram over @drnaemft and to sign up for updates on her upcoming book, Trauma Bond Free, A Therapist’s Guide For Healing From Traumatic Love, visit her site nadinemacaluso.com.