When I used to think of Mob Wives, I'd immediately conjure images of volatile, middle-aged Staten Island women chucking objects at each other.
But on the sixth and final season of the VH1 reality show, there's a new mob "wife" in town—though she's actually 25 and has never been married. The smiley blonde model, Brittany Fogarty—whose father John Fogarty, was a Mafia hitman and drug trafficker who was arrested in 1991—is an outspoken new perspective on the mob.
Fogarty may be young, but she was still very much involved in the show's drama, and she has experience with the spotlight: Called "the real life Carmela Soprano," Fogarty's mother, Andrea Giovino, published her memoir Divorced from the Mob in 2004, and in 2011 she was featured on the TV docu-series I Married a Mobster. I spoke with Fogarty to discuss the deeper message she wants to communicate on the show: Her opinion about the damage caused by the Mafia "lifestyle," which goes against the perspective embraced by almost all of the other Mob Wives cast members.
BROADLY: How did you get on Mob Wives?
Brittany Fogarty: The producers approached me to cast with them. I think they were trying to pull in younger cast members who are connected to the [Mafia] lifestyle but who have a different view. My mom wrote a book, and she did the show I Married A Mobster, so they knew I had a family history of being connected to the lifestyle. My family story is already out there.
So basically they reached out to me and asked if it was something I'd be interested in. I was like, "Of course it's something I'd be interested in!" One of the producers called me and asked me to explain my life story, who I am, how I grew up, what my views are on the lifestyle, and what's going on in my life today.
After that I got a call back to go into studio and to film a cast interview. I'm pretty much an open book, so when you talk to me that's who I am, that's my personality. I think that came across in the interview, and after that they offered me a contract to do the show. We started filming, and they threw me right into the mix.
Were you on I Married a Mobster?
When I was young I'd go with my mom to all of her interviews and all of the press and media that she does. I was with her step by step through the I Married a Mobster interview. At the end of it, there's a little clip of me comparing my childhood to how my mother was raised. I was with her when she went on The View, so I saw all of the behind-the-scenes stuff.
Was your mom excited that you were doing Mob Wives?
My mom is now really excited. You'll see on the show that she filmed a few scenes with me. But when I first told her about the show, she was not excited about it at all. Her initial reaction was like, "Why would you wanna go do Mob Wives?"
I think my mom has been through so much in her life. When you hear and see people talk about the Mafia, or you see movies about the Mafia, everything looks so glamorous. It's these big mink coats and the beautiful cars and the diamonds and the restaurants and the money and the shopping. That was the life my mom lived. But when everything happened, and the feds came in and arrested everyone, my mom's life was completely torn apart. Everything she had, the cars and the jewelry, was taken from her; they relocated my family to Pennsylvania. [The government] kind of just stuck her here with four kids and my dad went to prison.
My father and the fathers of the women on the show—they've committed murder and other terrible crimes. That's not something you want to go around and brag about.
She struggled for so long to move away from that lifestyle, so when I told her I was thinking of going on Mob Wives, she was like, "Why would you want to go back to that? We moved past that life." I think for her it was almost like taking two steps back. She didn't understand why I would want to put myself around those people.
How did you convince her?
I thought it would be good to have someone like me on the show because I have a different mindset than a lot of these women; I don't glamorize that lifestyle. I don't look up to the lifestyle; I look at it as a negative thing, as something that tears families apart. So I was like, "Mom, I can help bring a different perspective to it. We can show people our story and show how this lifestyle destroys families."
How did your cast mates react to this sentiment?
Everybody on the show, and most of the people who come from [the Mafia], has a strong personality, and most of us are opinionated. And yeah, I was very vocal that I don't look at the lifestyle as glamorous, but as destructive.
Whereas some of my cast members might be proud of the things their families have done, I'm not. They've committed crimes, and they paid for those crimes. At the end of the day, I'm not going to be ashamed of it, either; it is what it is. But it's definitely not something to be proud of and not something to brag about.
I look at it as a negative thing, as something that tears families apart.
My father and the fathers of the women on the show—they've committed murder and other terrible crimes. That's not something you want to go around and brag about or act like you're okay with; somewhere there's someone out there who doesn't have a brother or a father as a result of the decisions our families have made. I think it's important to shed light on that and to not just be like, "This is where I come from, and I'm great and I'm strong." Like, no. People have lost their lives.
The whole basis of show is to shed light on the women's lives, and there were definitely many conversations involving what's happened in our families. I have no problem voicing my opinion, sharing what's going on in my mind, but it definitely caused waves.
Were you nervous to be on the show with women who are much older than you?
I wasn't nervous going into it, because my mom is one of ten kids so I have a really big Italian family. I've always been around these strong opinions. To me, its not like you're throwing a sheep into the lion's den—I consider myself a lion. I can handle myself. I'm educated, I'm well-spoken, and I know I can handle myself. I was more excited. I knew there was going to be a lot of drama and a lot of conflict, but I was ready for it.
While I was filming, I was 24, and some of these women are 50, or in their late 40s, so they could be my mother. For them, it was easy, if they didn't like what I was saying, to just blame it on my age. I was like, "I may be half your age, but I'm still an adult." I mean, there are people out there, my age, who have doctorate degrees. If you don't like what I have to say, then find something else to blame it on.
Did you know any of the women before the show?
I met them all through the show, but my family knows some of the women. Big Ang grew up with a bunch of my aunts, and she knows my mother. Karen's father and my father were in prison together, and they were really close while they were in prison. So I didn't know them personally, but we shared some connections.
How is your relationship with your dad?
My father got out of prison when I was 11. I always try to explain to people that it's hard when your parent is gone from when you're an infant until you're 11. That's such a crucial time to bond.
Part of the reason I think poorly of the lifestyle is that, because of the actions and decisions my family made, and that my father made, he was taken out of my life until I was [an adolescent]. That's something we struggle with still; we struggle to have a normal relationship. We're working on it.