Renee Graziano is your typical Italian momma. She takes care of her son, AJ, her home and her family. Oh, and she also happens to be one of the stars of VH1’s hit show, Mob Wives. Renee spoke exclusively with Celebrity Parents about being a mob wife, her battle with depression, and why she will never, ever throw herself a pity party again.
So, let’s get the obvious out of the way first. It’s a rough time for you now.
Right now, I’m dead center, for all eyes to see. And yes, it’s a hard thing. My father [Anthony Graziano) is in jail, and he’s 72 years old. He has cancer and severe diabetes, which is a big issue in the prison system. I hope they pay as much enough attention to his health as they will to his name and who he is. I was really impressed by the judge, though, because she took an interest in the case and the facts. She said that she needs to base her sentence on what was done now, not by the past. I was impressed by her ability to look beyond that; she wasn’t interested in labels. People are so quick to label, and believe me; I’ve had a ton of them.
And we should mention that the reason your dad is in jail is connected to your ex-husband.
People will ask me, “Don’t you wish he [Hector Pagan, Jr.] was dead?” No, I don’t. I wish him a hundred angry Renee’s every day of his life. I also wish the first plastic surgeon who botched my surgery a hundred angry Renee’s, too. I think that would make things a lot better. People who know me would say that’s the worst punishment in the world! [laughs] When I’m angry, I’m definitely not sweet.
Speaking of sweet, let’s talk about your new line, Mob Candy.
I love my Mob Candy. I love the name of it. It came about because I love color. Color changes your mood. And candy makes you feel better. And we can’t forget the mob part. So I put it all together. One day, I was sitting on the couch pigging out, eating M&M’s. I was thinking, “I’m fuckin’ getting fat,” and then I put the two words together. Mob Candy is a fun line; it’s shoes and jewelry and body lotions. It’s everything a mob princess would wear, without the cost.
What was it like, being a mob princess?
Well, Mob Candy definitely took me back to that time, and that whole lifestyle. It’s a very loud and bold lifestyle, and everyone knows that I’m loud and bold! I remember being in limos when I was 16, and getting my first fur coat at 7. It was the stories you read and heard about it, but it was really that. I didn’t know anything about the lifestyle; when you’re little, you don’t think about where things come from. And now, I’m reliving the mob, but not as a kid but as an adult. It’s completely different.
Mob Wives is one of the most popular shows on TV. And your sister Jennifer Graziano is the creator and Executive Producer.
Well, she’s a Jennifer. [laughs]
Of course! [laughs]
What’s it like being on Mob Wives?
This was what I was born for, in one way or another. I’m over the top in my regular life; this is just me. You’re going to get me if I’m happy or sad. Overall, it’s been quite an experience. It’s comforting that my sister is behind the camera, because there is a feeling of safety there. After season 1, it would have been harder, and I would have been more cautious. With my sister there, I know that I’m okay.
But I’m sure that viewers are happy to see that she’s not really showing any sisterly favoritism when she’s editing the show.
Trust me; she’s not editing anything out! There are parts where I say, “I can’t believe you made me look like that!” She tells me, “No I can’t believe you did it!” For the most part, it’s been great and working with the girls has had its ups and lots of downs. I have my opinion on each. But they’re like assholes, everyone has one. I love them, but I don’t always like them. There are certain who I consider family, and some I wouldn’t waste my own spit on.
Do you want to go there?
Carla? I’m sorry; did you ask me her name? [laughs] I don’t care for her because she’s done some shady things after we put our issues to rest. That’s a big problem because you’re not who you say you are. I forgave after her boyfriend put his hands on me, but to say that it wasn’t true because I wasn’t pretty enough or skinny enough? Please.
I was fabulous fat. I was fabulous skinny. I’m fabulous because of my heart. I might not always believe it, but I know that I am. That helps me bounce back. My depression is no secret, and it’s something I’ve battled for over 20 years. Every day I wake up and don’t know if I’ll be okay. People look at me and think I have this great life, but they forget that I’m also a domestic violence survivor and the victim of a sexual predator.
Those issues can take a very long time to recover from.
I have a great relationship with God. He keeps picking me up. He’s picked me up from many times, from depression to feeling of suicide, because I was so down from sexual assault. And this didn’t happen years and years ago; it happened when I was 36 years old. I was depressed and had suffered from physical and mental abuse. But to then be my father’s daughter, my ex-husband’s ex-wife–no one would dare to touch me. But I ran across a predator, and that took me to a breaking point. That’s why I was so angry with Carla. I had had a solid year of recovery, and her words were like a punch in the face.
AJ is such a huge part of my life. We’re buddies. He should be doing this as the parent because I’m more the kid. He’ll tell me, “Mom, there’s too much drama,” or “You shouldn’t talk about this.”
Isn’t that nice when it comes from your kid? He’s protecting you.
AJ had to grow up early, and that was it. Do I feel bad? Yes, but I’m not going to throw him a pity party. I throw the best pity parties in the world, but I haven’t thrown one in a while. At first everyone comes, and then some cancel, and then you wind up blowing out your own candles. So fuck the pity party. I will not pity that child.
His first experience with this lifestyle was when he was 4. His father raised his hands, and I knew that my son could fall victim to it. So I packed my son, my clothes my car and my TV and we were out the door. I left, but then I did go back, because I did love his father. But I’m not going to allow AJ to feel sorry for himself. It is what it is, and it’s going to be what it’s going to be. But in all, it’s made me stronger. I started a charity called Eyes Wide Open, to help other victims of abuse. My mission, since I was a kid, was to help save a life, to help someone get out of a desperate situation. You have to pay it forward and help people. I will never look away from someone who needs my help. If I can’t snatch you out of the situation personally, one way or another I will get you out. That’s the code I live by.
Hair/Makeup: Renee Strong