There's Nobody on TV Quite Like Big Ang: Mob Wives' Angela Raiola
|The incomparable Big Ang|
She's dated mobsters and loves drag queens; she's had more than a few facelifts and breast enlargements, and admits to them all. Her wardrobe is colorful, her voice is deep, and it would be easy to laugh at Big Ang, but there's something undeniably lovable and charming about Angela Raiola, aka Big Ang, the breakout star of VH1's Mob Wives.
Ang doesn't pull any punches. Big, brassy and foul mouthed, the hard drinking Ang tells it like it is.
"I don't care what people think of me," she says.
For those unfamiliar with Mob Wives, it follows the somewhat soap opera-ish lives of a group of mafia princesses who reside in Staten Island, New York. The girls struggle to keep their men out of jail -- when they're not fighting with each other -- even as they enjoy the wealth and privilege that comes with the mob lifestyle.
The series quickly became a hit, but not even it's most diehard fans were prepared for the arrival of Big Ang in season two. Along with her outrageous appearance, Ang brought a quiet wisdom, and a gay sensibility to the mean streets of Staten Island.
"I love the gay community," she says. "I love them and they love me. We have a special relationship. We're both obsessed with clothes and shoes."
Ang quickly won the hearts of Mob Wives viewers, and in July of last year, she was given her own series; The Big Ang Show premiered to impressive numbers.
Big Ang and friend.
Ang proved to viewers that she's no one's fool. Much wiser than her cartoonish appearance might indicate, she courageously allowed viewers to peek in on her relationship with her troubled son A.J., her trip to New York's Pride Parade (complete with drag makeover).
She's a wild woman, and a supporter of marriage equality.
"I'm a big supporter," she says. "Have your weddings at my bar!"
That bar would be The Drunken Monkey, Ang's Staten Island watering hole. And Tuesgays, her newly launched weekly gay night at the Monkey, is a smashing success.
The bar is filled with so many partying drag queens, it nearly burst at the seams! Naturally we wondered how the neighbors felt. Staten Island, after all, has never been a stronghold of LGBT equality.
"The bar is on a main street, so there are no houses nearby," she said. "We get a lot of gays and everyone loves me!"
Of course, her "connections" couldn't hurt.
Ang's next move is to take her act on the road. On September 8, 2013, VH1 premiered Miami Monkey, Big Ang's second reality show. This time around, Ang has opened a bar in Miami's glittering South Beach district. She runs the Florida bar with her daughter, while continuing to run her flagship Staten Island location. She's still appearing on Mob Wives, and even found the time to film cameos in movies like Scary Movie 5 and the upcoming Staten Island Summer.
"It's a lot of work, but I get it done," she said. She admits that she still hasn't seen Scary Movie 5 because she hasn't had the time.
"I'm in shock," she says of her sudden fame. "But I'm getting used to it, and I enjoy it. I enjoy meeting people and my family loves it. It's a lot of work, and it's exciting, but I can't go shopping anymore! I get mobbed!"
Ang said that ten years ago she would never have imagined any of this. "I want to take this as far as I can," she says. "I just keep doing it and doing it."
New episodes of Miami Monkey are now airing Sundays at 10 p.m. on VH1. Mob Wives fourth season is now in production.Complete episodes of all three Big Ang series will remain available for online viewing at VH1.com.