It's been nearly three weeks since reality star Big Ang lost her battle with cancer and I'm still torn up about the fact that she's gone. Big Ang and the rest of the cast of Mob Wives represent an important shift in the way that I view my own Italian-American culture and I wanted to talk a little bit about that journey today since tonight marks the final episode of Mob Wives and the last time we'll see Big Ang on TV.
I have written on my blog before that "being Italian is all about talking with my hands, loving the hell out of my family, dressing gaudy and glamorous and never apologizing for who you are." And while I certainly believe that now, I think like a lot of areas of my life, there was some apologizing that I used to feel was necessary when I talked about my culture. Mostly, it was, "I'm Italian, but I'm not that kind of Italian."
I've been a freelance writer for almost ten years so I've had a lot of gigs along the way. One of them was writing for an Italian-American newspaper. I remember sitting in on an editorial meeting sipping wine and eating pizza and just soaking it all in. When the editor started to describe the mission of the paper, I distinctly remember him going off about how we needed to represent Italian culture different than what was being shown on TV: mainly Jersey Shore, Real Housewives of New Jersey and soon to follow Mob Wives.
That editor made it clear that those are not representations of the culture that we should be embracing and I am ashamed to admit that I bought into it. Sure, he was right that there's more to Italian-American culture than those shows portray but that's true of most shows focused on a group of people. And though I can cop to wearing a Snooki poof in 2008, I wanted to do everything I could to separate myself from Snooki and the Jersey Shore crew. But while watching it, I was secretly relating to a lot of their experiences. It wasn't so much the drinking, partying or the GTL, but it was more the way they always came back together for Sunday family dinners, Vinny's relationship with his overprotective Mom and Ronnie and Sammi's fighting that felt familiar.
I remember when a friend first told me as a kid that she liked coming to my house because she thought it was funny how loud my family talked and that we all talked over each other. I remember being so embarrassed that my family was different. But she wasn't wrong. My family is really loud, myself included, and we do all talk over each other and that's not a bad thing.
When I was living in Atlanta, for the first time in my life, I was surrounded by no other Italians save my cousin who also lived there. I met someone who went to the same college I did randomly before I met another Italian-American. In fact, I never met another Italian-American woman while living there. The one Italian grocery store was far, small, crowded and didn't even carry castelvetrano olives. I would try to explain to people that my mom was a typical Italian mom and that wasn't something they understood.
It was during this time that I started watching Mob Wives. I had seen episodes in the past in passing and whenever I did, I was drawn in, but I never set out to watch it. My take on the Mob was even more complicated than my feelings about Italian-American representation in pop culture. Mostly because I get teased growing up by kids who would ask "Is your Dad in the Mob?" and I always strove to separate myself from it as much possible. For the record, those kids also used to tease me about having a mustache.
But when I started watching Mob Wives while living in Atlanta, it allowed me to feel connected to my culture again. I watched as these women went from 0 to 100 (or as I call 0 to Sicilian) over the littlest things. I heard them say things like, "I forgive, but I never forget" and "loyalty is everything." I watched the way they dressed super gaudy in rhinestones and fur. They swore a lot. They were dramatic. They were over-the-top, loud, and unapologetic as fuck and as much as I had tried to deny it for years, that's a part of my culture and it's a part of who I am too.
Big Ang in particular stole my heart. Mostly because she always tried to keep the peace knowing it was an impossible mission. She did this right up until the end. She was always entrenched in the drama yet above it in some way. She lived up to her name as being truly larger than life. Who else do you know that wears stilettos and fur to a doctor's appointment? Or has a full face of makeup right after surgery? Big Ang lived with no apologies and that's something I really admire and strive to do in my own life. I'll miss her big personality. I'll miss her kindness. And I miss that part of her that hit a soft spot in me and helped me learn to love a part of myself that I was told to hide.
Before I give y'all the outfit details, let me say that I've been sitting on this look for a while so a lot of these particular items are not available anymore but I've listed some similar options as best I could.
Black Bandeau Bra, Re/Dress (similar)
Stacked Platform Heels, HerStyle (similar)
Nails by @GlamLife25_8