Ronnie Ortiz-Magro was easily convinced to do a video interview for “a new MTV show” after being approached by an MTV producer while he was weekending in Belmar.
“A strange girl walks up to me and she’s like, ’You look like you fit the criteria for this TV show we’re doing. And I’m like, ‘What? Douchebag?’” Ortiz-Magro laughed. “Then on a Tuesday she gives me a call and says ‘Hey, would you come to Long Island and do an interview?’”
With a “why not” attitude, the Bronx native took the hour-long drive to Long Island with a friend. “I pull up to this house and there’s plywood on all the windows. And we’re like, ‘What? Where am I?’” Ortiz-Magro said. “It looked like Freddy Krueger’s house. And I’m like, ‘Oh my God. Am I on Elm Street?’”
Ortiz-Magro recalls the day clearly, with it being the day of Michael Jackson’s funeral service. “I see a guy walking out, tool bag. Just like Pauly, with the blowout. And I’m like, ‘Oh, I’m in the right spot, obviously.’ He wasn’t murdered so I went to the back,” he said. “I said to my friend, ‘If I don’t text you in 10 minutes, call the cops.’”
Ortiz-Magro then got a second call from the producers, saying they would like to fly him out to California for a final round of video interviews.
“At that point, I was this 23-year-old Bronx kid that never really traveled. I thought, what do I have to lose? Free trip,” Ortiz-Magro said.
Ortiz-Magro was a real estate broker for his family’s company, having worked for his father and grandfather for six years. Breaking the news to them was hard— when you work for a family business, “they expect so much.” At that time, Ortiz-Magro recalled, he didn’t have much to pack up from his “little one-bedroom apartment in the ghetto.”
Ortiz-Magro wanted to be a personal trainer at that time, and thought the show would allow him to charge extra money. He also thought Jersey Shore would only last one season.
With $237 in his bank account, Ortiz-Magro’s luggage, medicine bottles, wallet, pockets and shoes were thoroughly checked before being put into the Jersey Shore house.
“You take eight strangers and you add alcohol and no access to the outside world besides each other and the house Duck Phone,” Ortiz-Magro said. “Then you basically get Jersey Shore.”
He credits the technology ban — as well as all Redbull and Vodka cocktails — for the chaos.
“I can’t even drink Red Bull anymore, let’s put it that way. Literally, even thinking about it now, I cringe,” Ortiz-Magro dry heaves. “I throw up.”
While the Jersey Shore cast immediately clicked, being separated from his family was the hardest part of the show.
“You take normal, regular people away from their families. You rip us out of our comfort zones and you put us in a house, really without much information,” Ortiz-Magro said. “I had bills to pay, rent to pay and Vinny just got out of college and he had loans to pay. At the time, I feel like we were the most level-headed ones. The producers told us if we ever had a question, to go to the confessional and Vinny and I are up there like, ‘What the hell is going on? We’ve been drunk for four days, we have real lives.’”
Overall, Ortiz-Magro calls being on Jersey Shore, as well as going through the process of being in the public eye, a “blessing.”
“Obviously, I’ve always had my ups and downs on the show, but getting to watch it again has allowed me to really learn from my mistakes, and to see things I knew I would never do again,” he said. “Now, I just want to focus on being a dad and on my career. And I really want to show a different side of me in the new season coming up.”
Swapping his personal trainer dream for the cannabis industry, Ortiz-Magro’s love of bud had further bloomed when he moved to California and partnered with Shea Alderete from Gen-X Biotech.
“I was always a smoker more than a drinker. It did wonders for me, especially with my anxiety,” Ortiz-Magro said. “And I was a productive pothead, let me tell you, I would smoke before the gym, I would smoke before talk shows and nobody even knew.”
Gen-X’s focus is on producing the purest oil, without the weed headaches or “hangover.”
“With a lot of oils, you get bubbles in your chest, but what we produce is really clean,” Ortiz-Magro said. “I don’t want to name names, but I have other companies try our products and they say it’s really smooth.”
Along with being the face of Gen-X, Ortiz-Magro also works with Packwoods, who has released its first pre-rolled joint that has oil, keef, and tobacco-free leaf, and will be in 180 dispensaries across California.
“A lot of celebrities say they’re involved in [the cannabis space], but you put a plant in front of them and they don’t know what the hell to do.”
Many of Ortiz-Magro’s tattoos are centered around his Christianity, his future tattoo plans will involve ink for his daughter, Ariana. Ortiz-Magro said Ariana is his best friend, and would fly her as a baby to him during the last season of Jersey Shore because he wouldn’t film without her around him. For the initial months of her life, Ortiz-Magro had sworn off doing press, especially after learning his lesson on the day she was delivered.
“I was supposed to fly to London with Jenny, Pauly and Deena. Ariana’s mother asked me not to go. I promised this was the last one, and I flew from Vegas, had a two-hour layover in Newark and then a three-hour delay at the airport,” he said. “I think because we were all together we had some kind of pull, so the person at the gate said that they would get us on the plane, but if the plane doesn’t leave the gate by 1:30am, we have to cancel the flight.”
Ortiz-Magro said “something in his gut” was telling him to go back home. The Jersey Shore crew had convinced Ronnie that “everything would be fine” while they sat on the runway for another two hours. They finally took off for their seven-hour flight.
“Two hours before landing, I wake up to three missed FaceTimes,” he said. “I call her mom and she says, ‘My water broke.’ I’m freaking out, I wake up Jenny like, ‘Jen’s going into labor. I don’t even know what to do right now.’ We have two hours to land, I have to get through customs, re-book a flight and then do another 10 hours on the way back.”
MTV immediately got Ortiz-Magro a new flight, as well as an escort to walk him through customs.
“I jump in the car and tell the driver, ‘You have to drive! I’m having a baby!’” Ortiz-Magro said. “He is flying through, doing like 100 on the highway and telling me, ‘This is the most fun I’ve ever had!’ I made it an hour before Ariana was born.”
Beaming, Ortiz-Magro said, “I was the first person she saw, I was the first to hold her.”
“I’m a big pussy when it comes to her. I always said, ‘Oh I’m never going to spoil her like that.’ But she’s got me wrapped around her finger and she’s only 10 months old,” Ortiz-Magro said. “I can only imagine the next years. She’s going to be 15-years old like, ‘Dad, what’s your Venmo password?’”