EAST HANOVER, N.J. — Relaxing in a pedicure chair one October morning here at a favorite nail salon, Nicole Polizzi, the diminutive troublemaker and reality-TV star known as Snooki on “Jersey Shore,” was explaining that she would wait until her infant son, Lorenzo, was 15 or 16 before sharing with him her goofy, boozy escapades from that MTV series.
“That’s when kids start to go out and have their first drink, go to parties and things,” said Polizzi, 25, who had recently returned from a tanning-products convention in Nashville, Tenn. “I’m going to say: ‘You know what? Mommy was just 21 years old, doing what everybody else does. She just had a camera following her.’ ”
Polizzi seemed to know exactly what she’d be doing in some far-off future, when she is laying down the rules rather than flouting them.
But when it came to the nearer term — basically, any time after Dec. 20, when MTV will broadcast the final episode of “Jersey Shore” — she expressed an uncertainty shared by her soon-to-be ex-housemates.
“Because ‘Jersey Shore’ made us,” she said, “so it’s like, what now?”Continue Reading
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Incredibly it was only three years ago that MTV ran its first episode of “Jersey Shore,” its documentary-style account of four muscle-bound guys and four impossibly orange women partying down and hooking up in Seaside Heights, N.J.
In six rapid-fire seasons, including excursions to Miami and Italy, “Jersey Shore” became one of MTV’s biggest hits ever, drawing nearly 9 million viewers an episode at its peak and introducing terms such as “smooshing” and “GTL” (gym-tanning-laundry) to the American lexicon.
The series also has elevated its distinctively monikered cast members such as Michael Sorrentino (aka the Situation), Jenni Farley (JWoww) and Paul DelVecchio (Pauly D), making them the envy of unemployed milliennials and the scorn of Italian-American advocacy groups.
But now these improbable celebrities are bracing themselves for a different kind of reality, when the parties and press tours — and the cornerstone TV show that supported them — go away, leaving viewers to take stock of why they tuned in, and its subjects to wonder if their fame could fade as rapidly as it arrived.
“We were regular people a couple years ago,” said Vinny Guadagnino, a “Jersey Shore” star. “I don’t want it to stop.”
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At an Italian lunch in the West Village with the other men of “Jersey Shore,” Guadagnino said MTV had been vowing to cancel the show almost from its first season, possibly to see how the housemates would react.
“We always think they’re bluffing,” he said.
Chris Linn, MTV’s executive vice president for programming, said by telephone that the decision to end “Jersey Shore” — for real — came down to its cast “moving on to the next stages of adulthood.”
With milestones such as the birth of Polizzi’s son and Farley’s engagement, Linn said, the series “was moving away from the original concept, and rather than drive it into the ground or milk it to the very, very end, we wanted to give it a dignified send-off.”
When that final day of taping “Jersey Shore” occurred in the summer, and its housemates were allowed for the first time to interact directly with crew members and onlookers, “I had a nervous breakdown in the middle of the street, crying,” Farley said. “It was so bittersweet. That’s the house that changed my life.”
As Farley and her co-stars Samantha Giancola and Deena Nicole Cortese sipped ginger ales and Diet Cokes at a Times Square hotel bar, the women, attired in animal-print outfits, said they had come onto “Jersey Shore” with minimal expectations.
Yet they were well prepared by the wide range of reality shows they had watched, from great-grandparents of the genre such as “The Real World” to more recent offerings such as “Real Housewives.”
They knew there would be no privacy from the cameras rolling 24/7 and that the editing would not always portray them in flattering light.
“I say everything on that show is completely real,” said Giancola, whose on-and-off romance with her co-star Ronnie Ortiz-Magro was a long-running “Jersey Shore” soap opera. “What I said is real, how I acted is real.
“But it is a TV show, and you’re only seeing 45 minutes. You’re not seeing the full picture of everything.”
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For several of its stars, “Jersey Shore” represented the first time they’d lived on their own, cooked their own meals or checked themselves onto airplanes without a parent’s assistance.
To the men it was an introduction to life with women who did not conform to traditional stereotypes.
“You get these girls, and they’re drinking out of bowls, their underwear’s falling down,” Ortiz-Magro said. “I’m not used to that.”
To the women, the show was a crash course in coping with the criticism they have come to expect at appearances and on their widely followed Twitter accounts.
When Cortese joined “Jersey Shore” in Season 3 and was told by some viewers that she looked heavy, she said, “People would be like, ‘Don’t listen to them.’ But it always got me. I was like, ‘I’m seeing myself gain weight.’ ”
Among the men and women there was disagreement over just how famous “Jersey Shore” had made them and to what that renown entitled them.
“I don’t consider myself a celebrity,” Farley said. “It’s hard to think of yourself as a celebrity when you’re just yourself.”
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Make no mistake: Every member of the “Jersey Shore” troupe is now his or her own startup business, whether it is DelVecchio’s thriving career as a DJ or the array of licensed products they each endorse — energy drinks, fragrances, sunglasses and slippers.
As they perceive it, these side careers are independent from — and as important as — their status as reality-TV idols.
As Polizzi put it: “I don’t care if I’m famous or not. I just want to have my brand.”
Some cast members have at least begun to contemplate the possibility of a life without cameras and constant attention.
If her talk-show hosting aspirations do not pan out, Polizzi said, she would be satisfied to become a veterinary technician.
Cortese said she could open a salon.
Other dreams, simpler and yet fleetingly elusive, would also seem to be within their grasp.
Cortese recently wrote on Twitter: “ I can’t wait to be my normal again.”