Q+A: Ronnie Ortiz-Magro
Jersey Shore debuted two years ago with eight self-proclaimed guidos and guidettes who spent their days in tanning booths, gyms, and Laundromats and their nights dancing to house music, drinking, and “smushing” (having sex or, as newish cast member Deena Nicole Cortese says, “doing sex”). At first, audiences laughed—but then something happened. The kids at the Shore kept living their lives like there were no cameras on them, but the country changed. People began to aspire to Shore living; they started tanning, doing dance moves like the Jersey Turnpike (to those not in the know, stay there), and wearing their hair in poufs or blowing it out. This past Halloween, chain stores were even selling costumes of Mike “The Situation” Sorrentino and Paul “DJ Pauly D” DelVecchio, and a pouf wig based on the hairstyle made famous by Nicole “Snooki” Polizzi.
Throughout the show’s run, Ronnie Ortiz-Magro has served as the apex of masculine form both in build and ink. The spotlight has shined on his jarring on-again-off-again relationship with Sammi “Sweetheart” Giancola as well as his winning, boyish cackle during the show’s most elated moments (and who can forget him biting down on a piece of clothing when getting tattooed?).
These days, Ortiz-Magro is in a good place, back at the Shore and infectiously laughing his way to the bank thanks to club appearances, his clothing line, Jersey Laundry (with shirts bearing his catchphrases like “Come at me, bro!”), and his spot on the fifth season, which takes place in New Jersey’s Seaside Heights. Although he wouldn’t give us the recipe for Ron-Ron Juice—he’s working on bottling it—he did offer insight on what happens behind the scenes of Jersey Shore.
INKED: What’s a guido?
Ronnie Ortiz-Magro: It is the way you carry yourself, the way you dress, the way you look—tan and in shape—and your confidence. It’s a way of life.
What do you say to the Italian-American groups who railed against the show, saying that you made them look bad? First off, I don’t represent anybody. My job is to have fun and get drunk. I’m not looking to be a mayor or a senator; I’m not going down that road. And guido doesn’t mean you are Italian. Anybody can be a guido. I’m Puerto Rican and Italian; four other people on the show aren’t full Italian. And to clarify, Vinny [Guadagnino], who is Italian, isn’t a guido because of that—and he doesn’t even have the look. But he’s confident, so that’s why he’s a guido.
With waxed eyebrows and all of the grooming products, you guys sometimes look prettier than the girls. Well, we are neater, that’s for sure. I watch the episodes and I see the mess in Sammi, Deena, and Snooki’s room and I think, Wow.
Your “G.T.L.” mantra of going to the gym, going tanning, and doing laundry on a regular basis… I tan twice a week. I’m half Puerto Rican, so I stay tanner then most. I was doing the spray tan for a bit but they don’t make one darker than my skin [tone], so I was coming out the same color, only stickier.
And the frequency of Laundromat visits? One, clothes are part of looking good, and two, it gets us out of the house. We consider ourselves highly paid inmates.
How so? For the six weeks we film we are on lockdown. No computer, no TV, no cell phones, not even an iPod in the gym. When we got done with this season I’d missed all of Entourage and True Blood, and I didn’t know what was going on with the Yankees.
That said, you’ve made a pretty mint life just by letting your life play out on TV and making some club appearances. Before, my family would go to Florida and California. Now I’m going everywhere, even North Dakota. Believe it or not there’s stuff to do in Fargo! [He picks up the November issue of INKED with Amber Rose on the cover.] When the show first came out, I was in Los Angeles at Playhouse and this girl came up to me and said, “Can you take a picture with me?” And I was like, “Yeah.” And she said, “Me and my boyfriend watch your show!” Then I walk away and my boy says, “You know who that is? That’s Kanye West’s girlfriend, Amber Rose.” So I ran back over and asked, “Can I get a picture with you?”
What was life like before stardom? Before this I had a regular job just like everybody else. I worked as a real estate broker with my father and grandfather in the Bronx and went to the Shore on the weekend. My father used to bring me to Seaside [Heights] when I was a little kid to go on the rides, and then when I turned 21 I started going to Belmar [NJ], which has the best-looking girls. I’d work all week to spend my money there on the weekend. [Laughs.] I used to spend a lot of money on girls who didn’t sleep with me.
Do you brace for a call from your parents after each episode airs to yell at you about some of the stuff that goes down? Nah. At times I have a feeling they may have behaved worse.
Your relationship with Sammi has certainly been affected by TV. It is weird because our relationship has been public for so long that when we aren’t on television people want to know what’s going on with us.
Yes! So how are you and Sammi? Me and Sammi are not together. We were together up until the last couple of weeks [of season 5] but we have been really busy. She’s been busy. We like each other, we care about each other—it’s just that now’s not the right time. We decided that we should focus on our careers.
Do you think watching how you and Sammi interact is helpful to others who might be in the same situation? Well, you can learn what not to be like. That’s what we can help you with!
When a season of your show is airing, are you already working on the next season? Last year we were in the house (filming Season 3) as we were watching the Miami season, and that’s why it was so intense, because Sam was seeing stuff I did. So it was like, Fuck me! I couldn’t even run.
Dare we ask if you have any relationship advice? If you are going to be in a relationship make sure that you are living your life. Include your [significant] other in your life, but don’t revolve your life around theirs.
It seemed like you and Sammi were at your strongest in the past season when she made an effort to hang out with the other girls and not cling to you. That’s what brought us closer in Italy because she was living her own life. She had the girls and I had the guys. If you watch back on all four seasons we base our lives around each other. If I spend 24 hours around anybody, we are going to fight. But if we spend 10 hours a day together that’s probably better.
Well, no offense to Sammi or any other girl you may date, but you’re more entertaining when you’re “single Ronnie.” Throughout Jersey Shore I’ve had my intervals when I was single, but I sort of feel like a hot girl now. I feel like I have the vagina—I have the control now.
Are you partial to guidettes? I don’t discriminate. I actually don’t like guido girls, to be honest with you. I like all kinds of ethnicities. I like mixtures. Like, I’ve met a girl who was Asian and Colombian and one who was Portuguese and Swedish. They are interesting to me. With guidettes, I already know their culture.
The guidettes on the show—or at least Snooki—say that they love guido gorilla juiceheads. Do you juice? Do you do steroids? Those guys who do that give guidos a bad name. Looking good is really about dieting and working out.
Do you have a regimen? You see that I have my shirt off a lot during the show, so a few weeks before we are taping I start cutting things out of my diet, like carbs and cheese.
Whoa, whoa, whoa—a Guido who doesn’t eat pasta or pizza? After Italy, I’d be happy not to see pizza or pasta ever again.
Maybe your mesmerizing dance style helps keep you in shape? I learned dancing from my friend Joe. I used to call him Gumby Ankles because of how he moves. Now they just call me Crazy Legs. I have been going to clubs since teen nights when I was 15, and I always listened to house music like DJ Tiësto and [David] Guetta. When we are not filming I live at Pacha; it’s the only club I go to [in New York City].
MTV films you at Club Karma. We hadn’t heard about that place until the show. I hadn’t either. When they started sending us to Karma there were 30 people in the club—and that’s including the cast, crew, and Karma staff.
What’s your tattoo philosophy? Tattoos should only be on your body if they mean something. Your body is sacred and you shouldn’t treat it as just a fun canvas because you don’t have an eraser. … All of my tattoos are religious. All my friends have religious tattoos. We went to Catholic school all our life and religion is really important to me. That cross on my back has Jesus in it. Everybody has Jesus on the cross but I wanted Jesus in the cross.
The piece on your arm is great. That’s the angels and demon that Mario Barth did. I wanted to get it in Miami instead of the praying hands, but I knew it was going to take three sessions and I didn’t want to waste all that filming time—I’d probably still be crying on camera. The angels and demon symbolizes that we fight good and evil every day.
Would you ever get tattoos with the other guys on the show? No. I don’t want to have a tattoo that anybody else has.
What do you think about other tattoos on the Shore? How about Pauly D’s? They all mean something to Pauly, like with the Italian flag; he is the ultimate guido so that is definitely him. I didn’t know any of the people on the cast before the show and when I walked in and saw Pauly I was like, Wow, I didn’t even know they made you guys! He also has a tattoo on his arm for his friend who passed away.
And the Cadillac on his ribs? He’s had Cadillacs forever. He probably had a Tonka Cadillac when he was born.
Snooki also got some work done recently. Yeah, she got a rose at the Hard Rock in Las Vegas that the guy did a pretty good job on.
Does the Situation have any? Mike doesn’t have a tattoo, except for the one on his head from when he ran into a wall.
You’re talking about Italy, when he tried to scare you out of fighting him by attempting to put his head through drywall. He hit a stud and put himself on a stretcher. What did you think of that? It was awesome.
You could take him, right? Ahh. [Laughs and nods his head.] We’ll leave it at that.
It seems like he tries to create drama to monopolize camera time. Mike likes to start trouble; he likes to stir the pot. And as you saw in Italy, everyone starts to realize it. I realized it the first season and everyone thought I was crazy, but now they have caught on. And that’s why it looks like everybody is turning on him. It’s not that we are turning on him, it’s that we are fed up. We are all trying to be a family and he is messing things up, which is not going to work for us. It hurts the dynamic of the house.
You’ve had your scraps on the show too. I had never gotten into a confrontation before [Jersey Shore]. In the first season I didn’t know what I was doing with the cameras on me. But the thing with Mike and the wall was different.
How are things with Mike now? We patched things up. Guys are different than girls. We fight, get it out of the way, and then go get a beer. With the girls on the show, you see that they dragged it on from Miami to Jersey. But we guys scrap and then go get a beer. That’s pretty much the Jersey Shore.