When Downers Grove resident and Mob Wives Chicago star Christina Scoleri was initially approached by her friend Pia Rizza about whether she'd be interested in appearing on the Vh1 reality show with her, Scoleri said no.
A private person in the midst of a divorce, Scoleri wasn't sure she wanted people knowing what she was going through. As she thought more about it, Scoleri decided the money would be a good way to help stabilize her life during her divorce, and she agreed—provided her father was OK with it.
There are no actual “Mob Wives” on Mob Wives Chicago, but each of the five stars have some sort of connection to the Mob. For Scoleri, it's through her father Raymond Janek, who used to fence for the Mob—allegedly.
Scoleri wanted to make sure he would be okay with her doing it as it's his background that serves as her pedigree on the show. He gave her his OK and the show started filming.
Filming started in late January and wrapped last week, with Scoleri and the others keeping a Monday through Friday schedule during the filming, shooting anywhere between one and four scenes a day. Scoleri eventually got comfortable with the cameras filming her but said it was jarring at first.
“It's hard to be yourself when there's a bunch of people looking at you and you're worried about how you look and what you're doing,” she said. “I'm on a reality show, but I'm a private person so it was hard.”
Scoleri was born and raised in Chicago on Taylor Street before moving to Downers Grove in 2000 with her husband. She is the only cast member who lives in the 'burbs, which resulted in a good portion of her scenes being filmed locally.
So far, in the first three episodes, Scoleri can be seen having tea at Bello Tea, lunch at Kristina's Cafe, and visiting a Lisle-based therapist. Scoleri said scenes were also shot near the downtown Downers Grove train tracks, at Emmett's Ale House, Every Day's a Sundae and other downtown locations. All of the locations were chosen based on Scoleri's preferences, so she wasn't forced into visiting a place she normally doesn't just for the sake of filming. Of course, the final approval to film in a location came down to the individual establishments.
While many reality shows can be accused of manufacturing drama to make their stars and settings appear to have more conflict than actually exists, Scoleri started filming with a lot of inner-strife.
At the start of filming, Scoleri was going through a divorce while still living with her ex. Complicating matters, she is keeping the divorce secret from her 9-year-old daughter as Scoleri struggles with how best to tell her.
It's enough to drive Scoleri to seek therapy, which she does. Those issues make up the crux of Scoleri's arc on the show so far. Or, at least, they would, if not for a physical fight between Scoleri and castmate Rizza at the end of the first episode.
“I haven't fought since I was high school, and I don't go out to bars to fight,” Scoleri said. “I just defended myself, but I felt bad about it.”
It's a moment that paints Scoleri in an unfavorable light, which is something she sought to avoid when the show started filming. Having seen the first season of Mob Wives and a few other reality shows, Scoleri was fully aware of common reality TV tropes but hoped to avoid falling into the same traps.
“I always maintained I was going to be myself,” Scoleri said. “Of course, I'm always like 'I'm not going to be like that, it's going to be different,' but you never know what's going to happen.”
There has been a barb here and there about some of her wardrobe and makeup choices—or rather, the styling chosen by the producers—during her “white screen” scenes (the scenes in a reality show where the character is talking directly to the camera). But the reaction from friends and family has been largely positive so far, Scoleri said.
What she worries about is whether or not her true character will come through by the time the show is over. At this point in the season, Scoleri doesn't think there's been enough that shows who she really is, but she understands it's the nature of the genre.
“Obviously, you can't fit everything in an hour,” Scoleri said. “There are good things, but I don't know if they'll make it on air. It's entertainment.”
A dedicated mother and fashion designer who attended Columbia College Chicago, Scoleri hasn't seen any of the episodes ahead of time and watches them at the same time as the rest of the country. She doesn't know how it will all turn out or how she'll be portrayed.
Still, she doesn't regret making her decision to be on the show, and if the show gets picked up for another season, she imagines she'll be a part of it. Depending on how she is portrayed in the rest of the first season, she may need a second season for people to get a chance to see how she really is.
“I'm a sweet person,” Scoleri said. “I do what I have to for my daughter and I don't go out much. When I'm not working I just take care of my daughter.”