Business Class: La Bella Mafia (VIBE Magazine, October/November 2011)

Click photo to enlarge. Read below.

According to Cosa Nostra Lore, once you join the Mafia, there’s no way out. Yet VH1’s Mob Wives – a gangland flip on estrogen-powered reality TV – manages a similarly inescapable hold on viewers. The unscripted series chronicles a group of friends whose loved ones are locked up for mob-related crimes. “What separates us from other [unscripted] shows is the women all grew up in the same circle [and were] raised in a particular lifestyle,” says Jennifer Graziano, first-time producer of the drama-packed ratings beast. “They have a lot of heartache.” The massive success of the docu-soap has been bittersweet for the NYU alum, who, despite backlash from critics, crime victims and family members, is looking to film a Philly- or Chicago-based spin-off. Here, the former Sony Music A&R (Graziano helped sign Lyfe Jennings) explains how she keeps the TV underworld spinning.

-WILLIAM E. KETCHUM III

OFF THE CUFF
I’ve always been into writing, [but] Mob Wives morphed into its own entity once I decided to go unscripted. The scripted show was more so the backstory of Karen [Gravano] and myself growing up, what we went through. It’s past versus present.

BOSS’ LIFE
I’m in the field every day with the girls. I work on editing. I worked in marketing for five years, so I sit in VH1 marketing meetings. I’m very hands-on.

ALL EARS
If an intern has something to say, listen. You never know where the next big idea will come from.

CHECK THE RESUME
There are a lot of similarities [between] making an album and a TV show. You’re building something. matching songs and producers; dealing with personalities, celebs and talent; massaging situations and putting out fires.

WORD IS BOND
Never give empty promises.

WONDER WOMAN
I’m not intimidated by men. I really don’t think it’s made an effect on my business, thus far.

NO-BEEF DIET
If they have a fight, I stay out of it. It’s difficult, having [friends/cast members] call me constantly. I don’t choose sides. Of course I have opinions, but why fuel the fire?

STREET CODE
We’re very careful about what we say related to the Mob. I’m watchful over the girls with that. We weren’t really talking about the men, but how the lifestyle affected the women in the past and moving forward.

THE RIGHT PEOPLE
You can have a great reality show concept, but if you don’t have larger-than-life characters that are willing to let the world look into their lives, it’s not going anywhere.