In reality TV, everything is larger than life — big drama, big personalities and, well, big boobs. "Mob Wives" (now in its fourth season) star Angela "Big Ang" Raiola fits that bill, and hers are bigger than most. However, if you ask Ang, she actually doesn't care for the drama. Booze (she just came out with her own line of wines, Big Ang Wines), good times and plastic surgery, however, are a different story. We got Ang and longtime family friend and "Mob Wives" producer Jenn Graziano (sister of cast member Renee Graziano) on the line to ask them a few questions about mafia life.
Ang, when Jenn asked you to be on the show, what was your initial reaction?
I was very nervous. When she said we’re going to put you on TV I thought there is no way, I don’t know how to do that.
Jenn: She exploded immediately. It was like instant fame, instant stardom. They all loved her right away. We knew what was going to happen, she didn’t believe but we did.
From what we see on the show, your personality is larger than life. How much of this is real and how much is you putting it on for the cameras?
Ang: All of it, it really is all true stuff. I am like that.
Jenn: One hundred percent. I don’t think Ang knows how to be fake.
Ang: That’s me every day. That’s been me my whole life. Always working in bars, you have to have that personality all the way.
Speaking to that, is everything that happens on the show real?
Ang: Oh no, our show is very real. Sometimes a little TOO real.
Jenn: Yeah, she’s right — sometimes we wish those things weren’t really happening. But they are. We really follow what’s going on in their lives. And obviously we can’t follow everything so we pick and choose what we think the viewers would want to see sometimes, but really this is what’s going on, when the girls are fighting on camera, they are really fighting off camera too. When they’re getting along, they are really getting along.
Has there ever been anything that was just so outrageous that you couldn’t air it? Or you watched it later and thought, ‘Whoa, holy s—!’
Jenn: My whole business model is, if you’re going to do something you do it 150 percent. So if we have something and it’s there and the women are OK with it, then we’re going to air it, for the most part. You can take the example of my brother-in-law and my father and my sister, when [her brother-in-law] cooperated with the government. Immediately the first thought was ‘turn the cameras off,’ but then it was like you know, Renee is OK with airing this, and this is what’s really going on in our lives and I want to do it. We’re making reality TV, so let’s show them the reality.
And that was probably some of the toughest stuff to go through in terms of how real things are. Even with Renee in rehab that was difficult to show for me as a sister, but things happen and people go through all types of similar situations, so we wanted to show things that other women outside of our group and outside of Staten Island can also relate to.
Ang: Everybody has some kind of s— going on in his or her family. All of us.
Was it hard at first, Ang, putting your life on TV? Was that a major adjustment?
Ang: It was hard when my son had his problems and it was on TV ... but maybe it could help another kid.
Have you had any backlash from the show? I know when "Jersey Shore" came out, people from Jersey were furious about how they were portrayed.
Ang: Honestly I think everyone in Staten Island likes us. Maybe there are a couple of haters, but no one important. All the important people are proud of us.
I don’t know much about mob life, but from my understanding it’s famously secretive. How can you put this stuff on TV?
Ang: It’s interesting, that’s the word.
Right. But is anyone in your circle opposed to it?
Ang: I asked my family if it was OK with them, and they said if I could make money and have a good life, then go for it.
Jenn: We had some opposition from the "Italian community." In the beginning, there were a lot of skeptics, you know a lot of people in the lifestyle that were mad that we were making the show, thinking it was going to be very intrusive into their world. Even my own father wasn't happy about it, but I think, after time we proved to everyone that its really about the women, how a certain lifestyle affects them, not giving away secrets about the lifestyle, it’s really no different than the "Housewives" franchise, except that all these women come from a similar background, they have one thing in common.
Does your dad watch the show?
Jenn: He has never seen it.
Ang: They do! They will deny it but they definitely do!
Jenn: I don’t know — my father spent the entire first three seasons in prison, so I don’t think he has seen any of it. And, according to him, he doesn’t want to. My mother, on the other hand, said that if she sees her daughter cry on television one more time, then she’s going to throw up.
Ang, I watched your spin-off "Miami Monkey," and it seems like there was even more drama in Miami.
Ang: Oh please, I know. I don’t know who is worse, the younger or the older women. The younger women probably are. I’ve never seen young women complain about every single thing more in my life. They complained about everything. ‘I’m tired’ or whatever. I was like the Energizer battery for them, telling them, ‘Come on, we have to get it moving.’
How do Miami and Staten Island compare for you? How are the party scenes different?
Ang: No comparison, Miami parties way harder than Staten Island. Blows them out of the water any day. Miami is a party city. Staten Island is a lot quieter, a lot quieter.
I imagine you have some pretty crazy fans. What’s the craziest thing a fan has done to you or said to you?
Ang: Well just now, when I was shopping they jumped out of their car and they had their 2-year-old baby behind the wheel as it was running. I was like, ‘Excuse me your 2-year-old is behind the wheel and your car is running!’ and she said, ‘Oh she’ll be all right.’ That just happened 10 minutes ago. That kind of freaked me out.
Do you get weird fan mail?
Ang: I get stuff from jail, like guys asking me if I can buy them a car when they get out of there.
Do you respond?
Ang: I don’t respond to letters, like, are they crazy?! I get stuff sent to the bar all the time now, like nice stuff too. I get letters for Renee and for Drita, they just send it to the bar because they don’t have their addresses.
You're a very, um, recognizable person. Is it hard for you to do normal stuff?
Ang: Yes it's very hard. Like when I just got to Florida, I was wearing a hat and overalls, thinking no one will recognize me, but there they go, jumping out of cars into traffic.
Well, you have those two very recognizable parts of your body. Do you ever regret any of your plastic surgery?
Ang: I don’t regret any plastic surgery. Not now, not ever. And I'm looking forward having a little more around the face.
I know you have a daughter, has she had any plastic surgery?
Ang: My daughter does not like plastic surgery. She just had her boobs lifted, because she had the baby. Now she has these nice perky ones. She doesn’t like big boobs.
Does she ever yell at you like, ‘Mom that’s enough!’
Ang: No. She can’t tell me what to do.
Last question. If you had to sum up Big Ang’s life philosophy in one sentence, what would it be?
Ang: Enjoy everyday to the fullest because you never know when it ends.
Jenn: She also says, ‘If you’re not here for a good time…’
Ang: Oh, yeah. Yeah! ‘You’re not here for a long time, just a good time. ‘ I have that tattooed on my back.