Post image for “Mob Wives'” RaMona Rizzo talks Pacino, her portrayal on VH1, and being a survivor

“Mob Wives'” RaMona Rizzo talks Pacino, her portrayal on VH1, and being a survivor

by Maryann Pisano on July 12, 2012

RaMona Rizzo

emme:  Who came up with the concept for Mob Wives?

RaMona Rizzo:  Jennifer Graziano and one of her partners did.

Where did the producers find your group of friends?

Again, it all goes  back to Jennifer Graziano because we grew up with her.  She’s obviously is a part of our lifestyle because she’s Renee’s sister.  So, we all grew up together, except Carla.

How did you know all of the women before the show?

Again, like I said, Jennifer Graziano came up with the show.  I know her from two ends.  My father and her father are personal friends, and also her father and my grandfather, “Lefty Guns” had a personal relationship, too.  So, our friendship and our familyhood goes two different ways.  It travels from father to grandfather.

So, why did you decide to do the show in the first place?

Well, I was offered to do season 1 and I had to decline it because I was just fresh back into the country.  I had a legal issue and I also had to make sure my children were taken care of.  And, you know, my family was opposed to the idea and they still are.  And, I had to decline.  Then, second season when it was re-offered to me again whenever I was ready to jump back into it, I was a little bit more stable.  I knew I was going in the legal direction, so I thought, “why not?”  I didn’t like the direction it was going with certain types of people, so I just said, I had to give it a little bit of a reality check.

Why does your family not approve of the show?

Because my family is basically the real deal and you’re not supposed to in a sense expose any of this.  But, from my point of view, I don’t go on TV and talk about what my husband does or what my boyfriend does.  In the way I was raised, you aren’t supposed to say anything.  All I said was my personal feelings about my grandfather.  If you see, you know, I never tell you what my boyfriend was charged for.  If you’re really a journalist and you really follow this world you will find out who he is, but it’s not for me to speak upon.  Other people maybe or not from this world, and, you know, they say what their husband did, and that’s not what we’re about.

Can you describe a typical day filming?

Basically, a typical day  depends what you have planned that week.  We film Tuesday through Friday and we tell them what we have planned, and they will tell you they will come.  You’re going to go shopping, doing regular things with your girlfriends, getting a pedicure and having a conversation about what’s going on with the kids or our next business endeavor.  Maybe something about Karen about her book and that’s it a best-seller.  It basically follows what you’re doing in your life.  And they split up the cameras between the five girls.

Is it difficult to watch yourself on TV and do you ever feel self conscious?

I don’t really feel self conscious.  You know the only thing, and I take it with a grain of salt, is I’ve done so much more on the TV show.  I’ve done charity benefits, scenes with my children, scenes where I’ve cried, scenes where I’ve taken you to the actual neighborhood to where Donnie Brasco was filmed and they didn’t show it.  For some reason, they decided to depict me as, I guess, a person that doesn’t take no shit.  I’m proud of that, if you start with me, I’m going to come back at you, but there’s more to me than that.  I’m a mom, I have   4 kids, basically gave up everything to keep my children.  My friends see me in the light of someone who is laughing.  I’m a goof ball, I’ll be singing, I’ll be doing crazy things and stuff.  So, maybe it hard not seeing the fun part of me, but, you know, it’s all good.  It’s TV, what can you do about it?

Was there an exact edit where you were mad that they didn’t portray you correctly?

Not that they didn’t portray me correctly, just that the audience was not used to having a character from first season.  So many times, people say I caused this fight.  If you sit there and you watch intelligently I went over there and I said, “we’re not going to do this here.” And I talk that whole week about how we weren’t going to fight because that was a family party, there was children there, my nephew was there.  And I don’t need to fight anybody, especially when the person lives right around the block from us.  I don’t need to do that on television, unless you want to make yourself look bigger for TV.  You know, what happens, when the TV isn’t around?  You should be who you are all the time.  For me, the only time it’s different is when we have to do an interview the one on one with the green screen because they ask you questions.  But, everything I do say, I own up to it.  Sometimes they cut it and edit it, but I don’t regret anything I’ve ever did because all I did was stick up for what I believe, who I wanted to protect, and I’ll go out kicking and screaming with that.  The reunion showed everything in a better light, and I was so happy by that.

When you guys did fight on TV, so was it hard to reveal so many emotions on national television?

I mean, at that time, it is what it is.  You’re not a dummy, you know what you’re signing up for.  It’s not like I was blinded, and I said, ‘oh my God, can I tell them to take it off?’  You know what you’re going into.  I’m not going to cry the sympathy card, and the poor victim.  It is what it is.  You’re taking a chance with that, like everything you do in life.

I know a lot of Italian- American groups have said that they’re not fond of the show.  What do you have to say to people who are not fond of it?

I mean, of they’re not fond, we do live, thank God, in a country called America.  Change the channel.  A lot of people weren’t fond of Jersey Shore, but Jersey Shore basically became a phenomnom.  [Young adults] like it for whatever reason may be.  People made livings on it, people made millions out of it.  To each, their own.  That is why we live in America.  You can voice your opinion.  What I don’t approve of, is when people go so deeply with these hurtful comments.  If you don’t like it, you should move on.  Why do you know so much about it if you don’t like it?  Are you an inside hater?  Are you a person who does watch and there’s a part of you that secretly wishes you were a part of it?  If you don’t like it, just say, it’s not really for me.  But there’s people that go on and on.  Like, it’s so tacky.

'Mob Wives' Cast

I know that Facebook and Twitter is a huge place for people to write negative comments.  How do you deal with those negative comments?

Well, I guess the first negative comments were coming in because I was a new character.  Since it was always my life Karen, Renee, I grew up with them.  When push comes to shove, I really believe after the reunion, things turned around.  On my Twitter, people saw me in a different light.  This is really what it’s about.  I got to hold myself gracefully.  I don’t need to fight you unless you put your hands on me.  I’m a mother of four, they’re my pride and joy that I need to take care of.  I don’t want to waste my time fighting. But, if you want to do that, I have no other way to protect myself and it will get ugly.

In the past few years there has been an explosion of reality shows that have come out of New York and New Jersey.  What do you think about those states and people that Americans find so fascinating?

Well, I mean, come on, New Jersey is always considered part of New York.  There is no place in the world like New York.  We’re a concrete jungle,the most talented people come from it.  The old expression that if you can make it in New York, you can make it anywhere.  There will always be a fascination with New York City, there always will be a fascination with the mafia because if you see throughout the years the movies keep circulating.  But, it’s always been a fascination since The Godfather days.  It’s always a hot commodity.  Nothing in the world is like New York.  It’s the fashion capitol of the country, we have the most amazing artists that come from here.  I’ve traveled all over the world.  My passport is stamped from top to bottom.  There’s nothing like coming home to New York City, ever.

Do you know any other New York or New Jersey reality stars?  Like do you ever have lunch with [Real Housewives of New Jersey’s] Teresa Giudice?  (laughs)

(Laughs)  I’ve met several of them.  Tracy from Jerseylicious was just at a fashion show with us.  She was a very sweet girl.  But we don’t have a secret club.  I met Caroline Manzo from New Jersey Housewives, she was a doll.  If I see them, they’re nice, we’re nice and we’ll chat, but other than that, no.  (laughs)

I know that Al Pacino portrayed your grandfather in Donnie Brasco.  Describe that experience, because he is such a huge actor!

Mr. Pacino is a great actor.  I did go to the movie set because the movie was based upon the book.  But once the film company bought the rights the book, they had the rights to change it. So, they changed the book dramatically.  My grandfather wasn’t killed.  He died of cancer of Thanksgiving.  The movie was being filmed in my old neighborhood where I was born, and it’s kind of like the Italian Projects.  It’s actually across from the real projects, which is lower Manhattan.  And I went down there to his trailor and I told him who I was and I called him out from outside. He was very grateful.  I just basically told him he is a great actor, and he’s just doing his job, but if the part comes up [about his family] can you just depict him in a good light?  Because the way they depicted him in the movie was not him at all.  It was a disgrace, from the way he dressed, from the way he talked, from the way he died.  He gave me the opportunity to do it, so I respect him whole heartedly.

I know you said that your grandfather was a very sharp dresser.  Where did he get his sense of style?

Well my grandfather was a great dresser because he had a great woman behind him.  My mother went to FIT (Fashion Institute of Techology New York) and my grandmother owned luxury clothing stores.  Her mom came from Ellis Island and they had big money.  When she first came here, she was from Spain, she had all different types of retail stores.  So behind every good man is a good woman.  So I would have to say my grandmother.   (laughs)  Even though they divorced, he learned to dress on his own.

What part of Italy does your family hail from?

My father is Sicilian and my mom’s side is Calabrese but my mom is also half Spanish.

Best Friends Forever: RaMona and Karen

Now there’s Mob Wives Chicago.  Do you know any of the women on the show?  Do you watch?

Yes I do like it.  I know Renee.  I also helped cast Pia because before I was actually on the show I worked behind the scenes with Jennifer [Graziano] on many projects.  So when she was out there casting the Chicago wives, I was also out there for several meetings.

Besides Mob Wives Chicago, are there any other reality shows that you enjoy watching?

I used to watch more TV, but now things have changed.  I still watch a lot of VH1.  I used to love Ray J and Brandy, I watched Love and Hip Hop, Braxton Sisters, New Jersey Housewives.  So it just really depends on my schedule.

And I know that  you are super busy because you are a mom of four, how do you stay so fit?!

Well I think a lot of has to do with always running from place to place.  You know with the job and what not.  I think a lot of it has to do with stress, you know what I mean?  (laughs)  I’m not the one to sit there, and I want to get the message out to a lot of woman that I will eventually be in my book and what not, a lot of women take out their frustrations eating.  You can only do that to a certain point.  Because when it’s said and done, the person that hurt you, they’re going to love that you’re fat.  If you’re not healthy for yourself or your children, you’re not going to be around to enjoy your life.  Nobody can ruin your life except yourself.

So will there be a next season for Mob Wives New York?

Yes, we’re in negotiations right now.  We’re going to try be on the same schedule as last year.  We’ll start filming in August which means we will probably back up in January.

You have a ton of future projects.  Can you go into more depth about them?

I manage an R & B group called Final Draft.  They’re based out of Atlanta.  They’re wonderful.  You can find their stuff on YouTube.  I am also in negotiations right now for my book.  Jennifer and I were working on my book before I even did Mob Wives.  I have a look book that I’m doing for this company called Red Engine, it’s a jean company.  It’s a fantastic jean company.  I’m also in negotiations with a jewelry company and I have a tanning product called Bronze Glow.  My sister is a top makeup artist in the industry.  Rihanna uses it and Vanessa Williams.  It’s not only used as a tanner, but also a foundation.  It’s a really good product.

What charities will you be involved in?

I did something for In Arms Reach, which didn’t get to air.  You raise money for children whose parents are incarcerated.  But the money doesn’t go to the parents, it goes to the children.  Unfortunately it didn’t air, but I had a concert and a performance at a club and the money was raised for buses so the kids could go visit their parents.  You know my grandfather was incarcerated and my father was incarcerated.  Here I was one of those kids.  So for me, my heart breaks and I just want these kids to have a better future because they are our future.  So if we don’t make it better for them, who’s going to be our next president?  We’re going to be senior citizens, but they’re the ones to help us with our social security?  If you don’t fix what’s going to happen tomorrow, we’re never going to fix our own lives.

When your grandfather and father were incarcerated, what got you through it?

Well when my father was incarcerated I was young, and I always had a good family base.  And then when I my grandfather was incarcerated, it was hard.  We had to write letters.  I always had a good family beside me and I always had similar friends that maybe had the same issues or could relate to it like Karen [Gravano] or Jennifer [Graziano].  So I wasn’t talking to Molly across the street who never had a family member incarcerated.  So I had friends and family kind of in the same situation.

What do your other friends, outside of Karen [Gravano], Renee [ Graziano] and Jennifer, how do they respond to the show?

Well my other friends are shy, or else they would come on the show.  And they are very proud of me for taking care of my children and doing what I need to do.  They weren’t 100% happy with the way the show portrayed because they were like, ‘where’s our goofy friend?  Where’s the girl who just gets up and start singing and dancing and doing crazy things?’  On the show, I’m always so serious and being the devil, which is fine, but they’re not showing me balancing my finances to send my son to a Catholic school.  Because I am a single mom to get him into the school.  They didn’t show you the part of me worrying about my kids, that’s the part they didn’t like.  They didn’t like that they only took a quarter of RaMona.  And that was hard for them to not go to VH1 and give them a piece of their mind.

What else will be in your book besides your grandfathers story?

I married a man from another nationality.  I was out of the country for a couple years and I had to come back.  I lived a privledged lifestyle with him, and in the end he wasn’t really on the up and up.  So I had to come back with nothing and try to make it for my children.  We came with nothing.  They had a father that took them from 60 to 0 in a matter of a couple years.  They had a really rough way of dealing with it, but they’re really strong kids and I’m so proud of them.  Their life changed dramatically.  I want to tell women about it and share my story because some of the stuff I went through.

I’m sure so many women have reached out to you with similar experiences.

Yes and no.  I did scenes pertaining to him but they didn’t show it.  I’m really, really excited people getting to know my story because at the end of the day you need to be a survivor for yourself, you need to be a survivor for your children, you need to be a survivor for your future.  And I want to get that message out.  I’ve been to the bottom, I’m not really at the top yet, but you have to fight.  You have people that will help you, but nothing will help you like the hand you have at the end of your arm.

RaMona and Renee Graziano

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