White House crasher, 'Housewife' finds true passion
Michaele Salahi to appear at Kimmel Cancer Center fundraiser
Michaele Salahi and boyfriend Neal Schon attend the 2011 Billboard Touring Awards at the Roosevelt Hotel in New York City. (Taylor Hill, Getty Images / November 10, 2011)
But, hey — without the glamour, cameras and tabloids, Michaele would hardly be Michaele.
When the one-time White House party crasher and reality TV star walked away from her husband last year, he whipped the celebrity media into a frenzy by claiming she was kidnapped, only to realize soon after that she was perfectly fine — purring most contentedly in the very open arms of rock star Neal Schon of Journey.
Fiction would struggle to top Michaele Salahi's true life. And that's just how she likes it.
Salahi and Schon will be in Baltimore Sunday for a benefit to raise money for the Kimmel Cancer Center at Johns Hopkins Hospital. He'll be performing with Journey, and she'll be his opening act, hosting a fashion show.
Salahi spoke with The Baltimore Sun last week, calling from Nashville, Tenn., just one stop on Journey's tour, which has taken her from Arkansas to Maine to Hawaii and even the Philippines. She talked about finding love with Schon, her new normal of living on the road, and the real-life lessons she's learned from reality television.
"This is like a lifetime dream," she said of being with Schon. "It's a really real thing."
It's hard to believe that before 2009, almost no one had heard of Michaele Salahi. That's when she and her then-husband, Tareq, crashed an awards dinner at the White House where President Barack Obama was speaking. The couple were discovered sitting at a table that other diners had paid for and were escorted out by security guards — but not before posing for soon-to-be-famous photos, with her in a red and gold sari-inspired dress, grasping the president's hand.
In the brouhaha that followed, the couple insisted that they were invited. No one bought it.
The incident helped earn Salahi a spot on "The Real Housewives of D.C." By the time of the party, Bravo crews had already been following the Salahis but hadn't yet announced the cast. The whole episode and its aftermath became fodder for the show's season finale in 2010.
Last September, Tareq, a Virginia winery owner she married in 2003, reported Michaele had been kidnapped after she disappeared. It turns out she had run off with Schon.
The Salahis' predictably nasty divorce was finalized this summer. Tareq's suit against Schon for $50 million was settled, as was Michaele's countersuit against Tareq.
Now Tareq is running for governor of Virginia while Michaele and her new man embark on what could be called their PDA Tour 2012.
"We're making up for all kinds of time," Michaele says. "We just can't get enough. Life's short."
Michaele and Schon met in 1995 at a Journey concert at D.C.'s DAR Constitution Hall. Michaele, who is originally from Fairfax, Va., was there with a friend. He spotted her in the crowd and did that rock star move where he sends someone out to bring her backstage. He told her it was the first time he'd ever done that. She believed him.
For a fan of Journey, this was mind-blowing, she says. And she felt something with Schon immediately.
But the occasional model — who attended but didn't graduate from King's College in Pennsylvania — went on to marry Salahi, choosing life at a winery instead of one on a tour bus. But she remained close with Schon over the next decade, until one day last year when she decided she couldn't live without him.
"For the first time, instead of doing what everyone else wants me to do, I said: 'I have to do something to fulfill myself,' " she said. "I said: 'I'm doing it; I'm going.' And I never came back."
She adds: "I'm thankful that I had enough courage to walk away from what I was in and follow my heart. Maybe I should have done it sooner, but I didn't have the maturity then."