If you couldnât get enough of Mellie Stanley and her sisters â the beautiful breakout stars of TLCâsÂ My Big Fat American Gypsy Wedding â youâll love Sundayâs special episode devoted exclusively to the ladies themselves.
My Big Fat American Gypsy Wedding: The Stanley Sisters follows black-sheep Mellie and her sisters Nettie, the volatile mother hen, and quiet, calm and comical Laura plus their high-maintenance, fashion-obsessed cousin Kayla as they deal with two family crises that test the boundaries of their gypsy beliefs and iron-clad family bonds.
Further bucking the strict code of behavior to which Romanichal women are expected to adhere, Mellie has taken a lucrative job stripping under the name of âGypsyâ at a local club called Vixens. Though sheâs unapologetic about her line of work, Mellie admits that she would be mortified if Nettie ever saw her dance. Which is exactly what her big sister plans to do in the hopes of shaming the girl into settling down.
And Nettie has even bigger fish to fry â her 14-year-old daughter Nookie has run off and possibly eloped with her 17-year-old boyfriend Pookie. Nettie hasnât seen the girl in a month and is livid that Pookieâs family is ignoring the unwritten gypsy code that says if a very, very young girl has run away and her mother wants her back, the child is to be returned home. She tries involving the police (thatâs âmuskersâ in gypsy-speak), to no avail.
On a lighter note, Kaylaâs oldest son, Richard, Jr., is ready to be baptized and Kayla is planning a blowout celebration in honor of the event.
But first things first. Nettie enlists her daughter-in-law Lotte and the pair heads off to Vixens to confront Mellie. The intrusion and embarrassment send Mellie into a frenzy.
Nonetheless, when the rest of the women in her family pile into an RV to make the six-hour road trip to the town where Nookie and Pookie are supposedly hiding, Mellie shakes off her anger â and her hangover â and boards the camper to serve as the warrior of the bunch.
When Pookieâs family tracks the women down at a hotel in which the runaways are rumored to be hiding, the fists start flying again.
Will Nettie convince Mellie to ditch the dirty-dancing life? Which family prevails in the parking lot girl-rumble? And will Nookie be returned to her desperate mom in time for Richieâs baptism?
Find out when My Big Fat American Gypsy Wedding: The Stanley Sisters premieres Sunday, July 1 at 9/8CT followed immediately by the seriesâ reunion special My Big Fat American Gypsy Wedding: The Aftermath.
I spoke with Mellie Stanley this week about the impact of the show on her and her family members’ lives, how gypsy women stay so fit, where she shops â and the ultra-surprising turn her love life has taken.
Channel Guide Magazine: How were you and your family first approached to do the show?
Mellie Stanley: The researcher from Firecracker Films had contacted me on Facebook and told me that they was in our town and would like to do an interview with me, and did we have any big parties going on. At the time, all we were doing was a baby shower because my niece was pregnant â the family reunion wasnât for months later. So we met up with them on a Saturday and we started filming on Tuesday.
CGM: Did you know at the time that you would become part of a multi-episode arc, or did things just work out so well initially that they kept on filming?
MS: It worked out so well, and they loved the atmosphere and just how our family was â they said that we were the most open gypsies that they had ever met. So they just wanted to keep filming on all the other events that we had.
CGM: Had you watched the original My Big Fat Gypsy Wedding from the U.K. so you sort ofÂ knew what you were in for?
MS: Honestly, I watched one part of an episode from the Big Fat Gypsy Wedding from the U.K. and I havenât really watched it anymore, because Iâm not a TV person.Â So when we started filming â and still as we were filming â I was like, âThis is fake and itâs never going to be aired.â And so when it actually did air, I was like, âOh my gosh, it actually is true! And the way I acted was outrageous!â [laughs]
CGM: Do you feel like you were represented truthfully on the show?
MS: You know, I was myself throughout the whole show â thatâs the way I act â so I couldnât be disappointed with it. Because thatâs me every day.
CGM: You also shared some pretty serious, heartbreaking personal stories with the TV audience. Any regrets, or are you proud of how much you’ve survived?
MS: The way I look at it, thereâs going to be people out there that hate you and thereâs going to be people out there that like you, and what I done, everything was real and the truth. So if people got something to say, I mean, Iâll give âem hell back. But itâs not nobodyâs fault. Iâm the one who got on TV and talked about it, so Iâm happy with everything. It couldnât have been no better. Because I know myself that it was all true and all real.
CGM: Have you heard from other gypsy girls who feel the same way that you do and want to forge their own path regardless of backlash from their family?
MS: Oh yeah! My ex-husbandâs sister is the same way â and thereâs a lot of gypsy girls out there that feel that way. I have over 7,000 Facebook messages from ever since the show has aired, and a lot of them is from gypsies that is like me and theyâre asking me how do I avoid what my familyâs opinions are â because they want to, but at the same time, they want their family, too. And I just told them, âYou do what you want to do. Your family will be mad for about a month or two and then theyâll eventually get over it. Youâll argue every now and then â but they will eventually get over the point that youâre not going to do what they want you to do. And if you donât want to be with a gypsy, youâre not going to be with one, and they canât make you do it. They love you, so theyâll end up accepting you for who you are.”
CGM: Do gypsy families ever completely turn their backs on loved ones or will you always be welcomed back, no matter what you’ve done?
MS: You will always be welcomed back in. I donât like to put this out there, but my ex-husbandâs sister â her family, they donât believe in going with a black person at all. They will literally disown you for that. But like I told her â because sheâs been with this guy for four years, and at first they knew about it and they disowned her, but now she just sneaks and does it â but deep in their hearts they know she does it. And they accept her.
CGM: And that’s how your family is, too â even after, as we find out in The Stanley Sisters, you’ve taken a job as an exotic dancer?
MS: Itâs pretty much the way we are. I still work there, and [Nettie] still talks to me. We argue and we fight. But we can get into the biggest argument and in five minutes we can sit there and talk like nothing has happened.
CGM: You were also at the center of the most talked-about episode of American Gypsy Wedding Â in which you got into a physical brawl with another woman at your nephew’s wedding to a woman you and Nettie hated. Did you know cameras would be right there to capture it â or did that not matter to you either way?
MS: You know, I had made a promise that I wasnât going to start anything at that wedding and so I kept my cool as much as I could. But I knew I was getting ready to blow up and I didnât want it to be on camera â because it was just something that I had to do. And if I wouldâve gotten a hold of the one that I wanted to get a hold of, I probably would have been locked up for manslaughter. Thatâs how much anger I have in for her.
But no, when I walked outside the doors, I didnât know that there was any cameras out there. When I walked out, I was just in my own world and then her cousin started running her mouth. And there was a camera guy there. And if somebody is going to run their mouth to me, I donât care whoâs around. It could be a cop. It could be whatever. If somebodyâs going to run their mouth, Iâm not just going to sit there and be like, âOK, Iâm a bitch and Iâm going to take it.â No! I would have to get locked up or they would have to do something bad to me because Iâm not going to calm down!
CGM: And to be fair, Diamond laid her hands on you first. You didn’t throw the first punch.
MS: No, I didnât! She pushed me. But I still got a disorderly conduct on me because they had got away!
And thatâs another thing about me and gypsies. Like, as soon as they hear the word âmuskers,â theyâre runninâ.Â And Iâm like, âI donât care if youâve got to lock me up. Lock me up, but Iâm going to stand there until the end.â I donât care if I got my ass whupped or if I didnât â I will be there till the end. And thatâs exactly what I showed her â âIâm not scared of the cops and Iâm not scared of you.â Â I told her that. Bring on whatever you want to bring on. I donât care!
CGM: I was pretty shocked to see that none of the men who were right there intervened in the fight, even when it got pretty brutal. Is that part of Â gypsy culture?
MS:Â Yes, that is very much part of the culture. If you see anybody fighting, you do not break it up. Because thatâs only going to cause more problems. If a man wouldâve got in there and broke it up, another man wouldâve got him and then it wouldâve been a bigger fight.
CGM: What has been the response to the show and your family’s participation from your community? Are they happy about it, or are there people who are angry that a pretty private culture is out there for the world to see?
MS: Itâs really basically half and half. You have some that they like it. You have some thatâs just mad â basically the men, because they didnât want them showing the guys out there knockinâ on the doors [for their paving businesses], how they do that, because some of them arenât legit to do it.
And then you have some of them thatâs just jealous because they didnât make it to other episodes. They made it on one and it was over. So you have the jealousy. And then you have the ones that donât want their culture out there. And thereâs the ones thatâs just happy that they see it.
CGM: We’ve had girls posting on our blog that they want to “become” gypsies, just so they can be like you. Do you hear from them as well?Â
MS: Oh yeah, thatâs part of the Facebook messages. I only click through some of them because there are so many, but I have some ladies that tell me that they will drive up here for me to give them a makeover and show them how to clean and all kinds of stuff.
And one lady wanted to lose weight and know my tips for that because we stay so skinny. She said even after my sister having nine kids, how was she so little? And the only method we have is that when youâre pregnant, you work out. You donât stop your daily life just because youâre pregnant. And then if you want to sit down and eat and then sit back and relax â as soon as we eat, we eat lemons and drink malt vinegar and then we get up and clean. Youâre literally not sitting down at all. The only time youâre laying down is when itâs time to go to bed. Like I told her, the only way that we stay skinny is that weâre never off of our feet. Only when weâre sleeping. And as soon as we wake our eyes up, weâre straight to cleaning.
CGM: We’ve also heard from some non-gypsy women who’ve watched the show and say that they envy the lifestyle that is expected of gypsy women â being home all day, taking care of their home and their families and themselves?
MS: A lot of people say they envy it, but if they only knew how hard it is! Itâs a job. Itâs a 24-hour-a-day job that you have to take care of. Even when youâre sleeping. Your husband isnât going to get up and get him a glass of water at 2 oâclock in the morning â heâs going to wake you up to do it. So really when youâre sleeping, you still have to listen for him. If he wants a bowl of cereal in the middle of the night, you have to listen for him. And the kids. Itâs not as easy as they think it is.
CGM: Really? When the men are home, the women are expected to do everything for them?
MS: Oh yeah. The men get home at about five or six oâclock in the evening and you already have their clothes laid out on the bathroom sink. You get their dinner ready while theyâre taking a shower â you get their dinner started before they walk in the door. As soon as theyâre home, theyâre in the bedroom. They do not come out. They sit on the bed, lay back, turn on the TV, eat, sleep. Theyâll die in the bedroom.
CGM: Do they play with the kids after they’ve eaten dinner, or is that the women’s job as well?
MS: No, their time with the kids is when we go on vacations, like when we go to Atlantic City and stuff. Thatâs basically the womenâs break and they would watch the kids. So when we go to Atlantic City or any beach or anything, the men will sit there and they will watch the kids or theyâll take them to the beach and the women get their break. A little bit.
I donât have kids myself, but I do have six sisters and 46 nieces and nephews. And as soon as youâre away from the kids, the men are on the phone, like âOh my God!â and youâre right back there. Itâs just you, your husband and your kids that youâre hanging out with, because the women are so attached to them that they canât be away from âem.
CGM: So do you see yourself eventually being like that with a husband and a family?
MS: I will always say that that part of the culture is in me. I cannot take that out. Even if I have an American boyfriend, Iâm the same way. Heâs not allowed to touch anything; heâs not allowed to do anything. And I will be like that with my kids. Like, some of my nieces, I hate to be away from them. That part of the culture is me. But the other part of the culture? I will work. I love working. And I will not be with another gypsy man. I will be with a gorger boy.
CGM: And has your family has accepted that now?
MS: They have. And actually they have accepted me being with a musker [the gypsy term for cop]. Because I am dating a musker. I finally broke it to them a couple of days ago that I am with a musker. And theyâre OK with it. Finally.
CGM: Wow! Now that I didn’t see coming at all! Will we see you and the man in question on The Stanley Sisters?
MS: Me dating the musker you wonât see on the show. Iâve been keeping that a secret for quite a while now. I wouldnât even tell them that I have a boyfriend. We got together the first week of April and we were actually together when they were filming The Stanley Sisters and I wouldnât even mention it. I’d say, âIâm talking to a gypsy boy, leave me alone!â just to get them off my back. But heâs a musker â and we are actually talking about getting married.
CGM: Would you do that for the cameras, Mellie?
MS: Iâm not sure he would. He doesnât even want me bringing things up because he already thinks my family is going to hate him. So I actually broke it to them about three days ago, when we started talking about getting married. I was like, âIâm with this boy, Sean, heâs a state trooper and I donât care what y’all say â weâre going to be together.”
My one sister ended up saying sheâs OK with it. And then I broke it to Nettie â that was the hardest one, because I was scared that she was going to blow up. But sheâs actually OK with it. And my other sister. Now my brothers, on the other hand, they are not going to be OK with it at all. But I donât care.
CGM: Well it seems as though with your sisters, you have to do something specifically to them before they really get their backs up and get ready to fight, so maybe Iâm not so surprised âŚ OK, Iâm still pretty surprised.
MS: Oh I surprised myself! When we first started talking, he told me he was a plumber from out of Texas. He didnât want me to know what he done, because he knew I was a gypsy and he knew that we donât like them. And then about two weeks into the relationship, I started talking about my best friendâs ex and I was like, âGod, I want to torture him. I want to break his legs and break every one of his fingers and just torture him.â And then I said, “I wanted to just kill him and throw him into the ocean” â but I was just talkinâ! I wasnât really meaning of doing it. And Sean just looks at me and shows me his badge and says, âYou know Iâm a Virginia state trooper, right?â And I was like, âOh my God!â
So we broke up for about a week, because I couldnât handle that he lied to me. But heâs actually a narcotics cop and he didnât want nobody to know what he done, because heâs busted so many people and heâs gotta watch his back.
CGM: So where did you meet him?
MS: I actually met him at the club that I work at.
CGM: Weâve seen the party clothing from Sondra Celli that you and your family wear, but â as you know â a lot of the people who post on the blog and elsewhere on the web want to know where you get the clothes you wear every day. Do you have any shopping tips for them?
MS: You know, Iâm about the most cheapest person, Iâm not even going to lie to you! I go to Walmart and buy some things there and Iâll diamond âem up, or Iâll just go and buy a pair of regular jeans from Rue 21 from the clearance rack and just diamond âem up myself. Basically I just buy the plain-Jane stuff and fix it up myself.
Mainly itâs Rue 21 in the mall, and they have the little five-dollar, seven-dollar racks and I go straight back there. Because I donât want to go out there and spend two- or three hundred dollars on a pair of jeans that Iâm only going to wear two or three times. Iâd rather go out there and pay 10 or 20 dollars for a pair of jeans, fix âem up myself, wear âem a couple of times and then go buy another pair.
Iâm like that Gretchen Wilson song â âI can buy the same damn thing on the Walmart shelf half-price!â
My Big Fat American Gypsy Wedding: The Stanley SistersÂ premieres July 1 at 9/8CT on TLC. Immediately after, the network will air the seriesâ reunion specialÂ My Big Fat American Gypsy Wedding: The Aftermath, in which the cast will fill viewers in on how their lives have changed since they shot their episodes and give further insight into the culture, customs and conflicts in their tight-knit communities.