Summer calls for sandals, thongs and bare feet. While you…
The appeal of reality television is usually lost on me. I can’t stand more than 2 minutes with the Kardasians, or Boo Boos, or Housewives of… Then I met the Stanley sisters. GYPSY SISTERS is a look at a large, blinged-out, drama-filled Romnichal Gypsy family from West Virginia, and I can’t wait to see what happens next!
If you loved MY BIG FAT AMERICAN GYPSY WEDDING, you’ll know that two charismatic Gypsy women from the Stanley clan, Nettie and her sister Mellie, stood out prominently from all of the other Gypsy women on that series – they were so popular with fans that TLC gave them their own show, and GYPSY SISTERS is now in its 3rd season on TLC. Featuring a changing cast of what would be called “Mischpocha” by a different clan (I’m sure that there is a similar word in the Romnichal language, but Mischpocha is as close as I can come to it) GYPSY SISTERS or GS consists of feisty cousins, siblings, children, boyfriends and husbands all joining the show. It’s fabulous.
Nettie is my favorite “Sister.” She’s a natural beauty and unbelievably, the mother of 9 (check out photos of Nettie in a bikini) and a grandmother, a devoted stay-at-home wife and mom who revels in her family and her relationship with her husband, Huey: “My husband built me up and gave me back my self confidence, he built me up to the person I am today” she says. “My husband is 100% Gypsy and he says I’m the perfect Gypsy wife, and that’s what I want to be.”
In addition to embodying the perfect Gypsy wife, gorgeous Nettie is also the matriarch for a huge extended family. She still valiantly tries to tame the proudly self-proclaimed “wild child,” her younger sister Mellie, a former stripper and single mother who is now expecting her second child. Nettie had a large hand in helping to raise Mellie and their 9 other siblings — their mother was in jail for much of Mellie’s childhood and teen years, taken down on AMERICA’S MOST WANTED; that’s a different kind of reality show. Nettie is still there for family no matter what sort of craziness people lay at her doorstep, and there is a ton of michegoss. After checking out fan sites and accessing my own GS OCD, I’ve listed the main reasons to watch GYPSY SISTERS this season, just in case you’ve never seen the show (and in no particular order):
- Most viewers watch reality television for the bold hijinks. TLC sent the GS to New Orleans, hoping for a booze-drenched adventure, which, of course, did turn into booze-filled good times and drama, as it usually does when Mellie has too much to drink. Gypsy women, we are reminded often on the show, do not usually drink, but Mellie makes up for everyone else’s abstinence on a regular basis on GS, unless she’s pregnant, of course. Mellie is not a fun drunk but there was none of last-season’s violence: in a top-rated show of last season (and seen in over half a million hits on Youtube or TLC’s website) Nettie and her cousin Kayla had a knock-down, drag-out, “hold my earrings” girlfight. Alcohol was not involved, and I don’t remember why they were fighting, and I doubt that they do either, because…
- The Gypsy Sisters all seem to have fiery but temporary spurts of anger, except for Nettie and Mellie’s sister Joann, who never seems to get angry, but I have hope for her after seeing a brief meltdown in New Orleans. Joann demonstrated that she could verbalize why she was angry (at Mellie, of course), and Nettie calmed everyone down. These GS get mad, usually via cellphone conversations, sometimes while driving to have it out in person; they fight, often in public places, make up, have protracted reconciliations and apologies, then forget about it.
- GYPSY SISTERS takes it on the road! They’ve had dramatic road trips of all sorts and TLC rents big motorhomes in a tribute, I think, to Gypsy caravans of old: they hit the road for family vacations, sometimes with lots of kids along. They once took a trip to find Mellie’s long-lost father. And I’ll never forget the nail-biter when Nettie, with the other GS along for support, made a journey across state lines to try and bring back Nettie’s teenage daughter, Nuckie, when she “ran off” with Pookie, and wouldn’t come home. It all worked out in the end and they are now married. Speaking of weddings…
- Forget the “Wedding” shows. GS always has a blingy wedding right around the corner, with lots of feuds brewing. Would Nettie try and stop Nuckie’s eventual wedding to Pookie or try for peace? Peace won out in the end.
- If you like CALL THE MIDWIFE, there are lots of babies. Gypsies have big families so there is always a pregnancy to celebrate. Mellie gave birth to her son Richard last season in a hugely popular episode, and is pregnant for the second time. We’ll find out who the father is in due time.
Beyond all of the GYPSY SISTERS’ drama, drama, drama, I wanted to hear all about Nettie, the real Gypsy woman. What was her beauty regimen and lifestyle beyond the GYPSY SISTERS? Nettie’s constantly on the go (she spoke to me as she was driving her children to their activities) and always looks fabulous, even though she wears very little makeup to look that way. I asked her, as I always ask, “What’s in your makeup bag, Baby?”
Nettie has been kind enough to give us a glimpse into her life and her makeup bag, and I’m really glad that she did!
So keep the Kardashians and Housewives of…whatever. I’m not interested. Gypsy Sisters? Bring it on, gals. I’m ready. GYPSY SISTERS airs Thursdays at 9 EST/8 CST on TLC.
Tell me what you think about GYPSY SISTERS!
Daily life – a few questions:
Q. What is a regular morning like at your house, because you always look so lovely, even when you’re cleaning your house!
A. I wash my face, brush my teeth, and bathe my kids, get them to school, then tend to my house. I clean the kitchen and get down and dirty with cleaning. It’s all about being clean and I’ve kept up my routine for years, it’s always the same. My face, feet and hands are a constant thing for me — my grandfather always said “ You can tell how clean a woman is by their feet.” I use a cleanser by Lush, the Extreme Face Wash, toner, lots of toner on my face, morning and evening.
Q. You have very few things in your makeup bag!
A. I try to use as little as possible on my face, but if I’m wearing makeup I use concealer for circles and spots.
Q. The foundation you wear, Urban Decay NAKED, is very light. (Products listed below)
A. I’ve always used foundation but I use more concealer now, that’s a major factor and I wear it even if I’m not wearing foundation. I wear the same makeup on the show as I do every day.
Q. Wow! That’s the magic of High-definition cameras. Do you have no-makeup days? Has that changed because of the TV show? And do you feel any pressure to show yourself in a certain way now that you are recognized as someone from a TV show?
A. I definitely have days where I give myself a break, people in the neighborhood know me without makeup. I don’t try and be someone I’m not, I go to the kid’s school in sweats, hair in a ponytail; I don’t dress to impress every single day.
Q. What is your husband’s favorite look for you? Do you agree? (My husband, for example, will see someone with bright red lipstick and say, “That looks good on you – you should wear that color,” and when I do, he always says, “I don’t like that color on you. It’s too bright.” – and he’s right.)
A. My husband has built me up and he gave me back my self-confidence, he built me up to the person I am today. I had the lowest self-esteem from my previous husband, I felt like I was nobody, honestly, I felt so low, like trash, and from the very start he (Huey) told me I was beautiful and even now he always compliments me, he likes it when I wear tight clothes. He likes my Gypsy style, the way I dress is what he likes, the way I am, the look of me, the way I think and the way I act. He is 100% Gypsy and he says I’m the perfect Gypsy wife, and that’s what I want to be. I believe I have a truly good heart and I was blessed, and I think God saw that I have a good heart and I was rewarded in the end after everything I went through. So I think everything worked out in the end to be the best.
Q. Who was a beauty role model when you were growing up? Why?
A. I did look up to my mom, I loved the way she dressed and she showed me how to put on makeup; I just really liked her style, so she is who I got my style from, and my Aunt Sheila and my Aunt Dovey are where I got my wifely, motherly, ways from. Being a Gypsy wife—they taught me that.
Q. You were lucky to have role models as a teenager. How much of a difference is there between the way you were and your older girls, now, as teenagers? What was it like when you were a teenager, compared to what it is like for Dallas and Nukie?
A. When I was growing up… there is no comparison between me and Dallas and Nukie now and when I was a teenager. All kids have to have respect for adults. That’s first. I would have liked them to wait until they were older, at least 18, to get married (Nukie is married and is 17, Dallas is 19 and unmarried, but has 2 children). For my 3 daughters left at home, I would like them to wait until they are at least 16 or 18 and older, I wish they wouldn’t be in a rush to leave and get married. It doesn’t always work out, and kids are jumping into it too fast.
Q. How many of your children are living with you now?
A. There’s a misunderstanding sometimes — I have had 9 children, and one of my children is no longer with us (Nettie’s daughter Destiny passed away when she was a baby) but they aren’t all living with me. Four of my children are out of the house; my sons are 24 and 21, Dallas is 19, and Nukie is married to Pookie and she’s 17. So I have 4 children at home and they are 13, 11, 10 and 5, and Dallas’ son is 14 months old and he is being raised by me now. My sister Joann was living with me but she’s not living with me now – Joann is a rambler, she’s a road hog.
Q. You have some big news, don’t you, about your children?
A. Yes, I’m really excited, because Nukie and Pookie are expecting their first baby at the beginning of December, and my son Albert and his new wife are also expecting their first baby next spring.
A. Thank you!
Q. You seem like a safe haven for your family.
A. Only the normal ones, there’s a lot of people who don’t like to be with me! (Laughs) You know, I have an 11 o’clock curfew and I don’t allow alcohol in my house – my own husband can’t drink alcohol in my house. But if they want free rent, a place to live with family, if they need help, I’m here. If they don’t want to abide by my rules, then go. Follow the rules, or if not, I tried to help you, sorry.
Q. Where do you get the energy for all of this? You have the kids, the cleaning, where do you get the energy for everything that you do?
A. I must be pulling it out of the pit of my stomach, I don’t know. There are toilets to clean every day, I scrub the floors every day, we vacuum at least 3 times a day, I wash my sheets every day, and I’m not finished until about 11 AM, and when I say it’s done, it’s done, and anyone who comes to my house will tell you it’s clean. I don’t say that I am clean, I am that, and anyone can see it.
Q. I like to clean so that it never gets dirty, not when it gets dirty.
A. Yes. You never let it get that way, I never let it get dirty.
Q. We’ve seen a few examples of Gypsy cooking on GYPSY SISTERS and MY BIG FAT AMERICAN GYPSY WEDDING. I think it was Laura – she was making her recipe called “Beans and Fluffies,” once, and Joann made you some Gypsy Toast (toasting bread with butter in a frying pan) this season. How would you describe Gypsy cuisine?
A. I would explain Gypsy cooking like Southern Soul Food! Home style cooking. Laura is not a Gypsy, she’s married to Kayla’s brother and she’s a Gorger, so “Beans and Fluffies” is a recipe that Kayla’s mom, Jett, showed her. Kayla’s mom taught Laura how to make all of the family recipes, and my grandmother called it “cake bread” and Richard’s (Kayla’s husband’s) family called it “Beans and Fluffies.” (It looks like baked beans with a sort of biscuit or “cake” on top, then baked on the stovetop in a covered pan) But we make it with black beans and Richard’s family made it with pinto beans – it’s the same thing (laughs). And Joann’s “Gypsy Toast” came from her in-laws, so there’s a little bit of Rumney all coming together on this show!
Q. Which family recipe is your favorite to eat or make?
A. That would be macaroni salad.
Q. Where do you like to shop for yourself and your family?
A. I like to shop at Buckle, Bebe, Victoria’s Secret, Juicy Coutire, Body Central and Ooh la la’s. The same for my kids, I also like Justice, Abercrombie, Jack and Jill and Gap Kids. I’ll look for my husband at Buckle, Gap, Abercrombie and American Eagle. I think Buckle has the most blinged out things, which I like, but I would buy anything that catches my eye. I like bling.
Q. Kayla has talked on the show about how she likes to buy clothing that is cheap and that Gypsies can make cheap things look expensive. Do you agree? Do you prefer lots of cheaper things or just one expensive thing?
A. (Laughs) When I’m going shopping I prefer one expensive thing — definitely the one expensive thing.
Makeup and hair choices Nettie’s favorites:
- Lipstick/gloss – Daiquiri by philosophy
- Perfume – Ralph Lauren – I have worn that for a long time
- Nail polish shade – Any kind of pink, pink, pink. It doesn’t matter what kind — when I get my nails done, it’s pink. When I get fancy nail art I like diamonds and pearls.
- UD Naked foundation in 4.5 winter and 5.5 summer
- UD Naked 3 eye shadow palette — I love natural tones and FROST!
- Two-faced translucent powder
- MAC pro long wear concealer
- Buxom Mascara
- Sephora pencils
Q. Wow! You make a lot happen with very few products. Do you mind if I send you a “makeup bag” of new cosmetics and skincare to try?
A. That sounds great!
Q. Where do you usually buy makeup?
A. Sephora. I love it, I love trying it on. My kids go everywhere with me, so they try makeup on there and they love it too. I had a great person at Sephora who helped me pick out all of the makeup I listed and her name was Madison Carr.
Q. Do you have rules for your children where makeup is concerned?
A. They are allowed to wear makeup when they are able to date, when they are 16, and they can wear makeup for special occasions when they are 15.
Q. What hair products do you use?
A. Redken for blondes. I don’t use conditioner but I use Chi silk infusion. I use a Chi flatiron, and normally that’s all I do unless I curl it.
Q. Do they provide makeup artists for you on GS?
A. They never do the makeup for us. I wish we did have a makeup artist.
Q. You are so skilled with makeup application with very few products. Do the producers ever give you criticism about your makeup?
A. No, when we do the interview portion they tell me that I need some powder; it’s hot under the lights, sometimes.
Q. You took Mellie to a local day spa on the show, but she wouldn’t indulge in the treatments. You knew what all of the treatments were. Do you like to get spa treatments?
A. I enjoy it but I’m very picky about what I put on face, so when we went to the spa I let them do more stuff to me that day, but I wouldn’t usually unless it’s a massage or something like that. I like getting a massage.
Q. Which services do you do for yourself (hair coloring, waxing, etc…)?
A. I never do that myself. I went dark one time, because I wanted to give my hair a break, I asked for the girl to match my roots but it was just too dark, and I went back to blonde. I’ve always been a blonde. I like being blonde.
Q. Do you tan or use a spray-on tan? Do you go in the sun? (I guess I missed the tanning bed in Nettie’s house!)
A. I go in the sun. I know I shouldn’t but I can’t do the fake thing, I just can’t, and I know I should stay away from the sun but I just can’t, you’re at the beach… and my husband loves to see me, he likes to just sit out there and adore me at the beach.
Q. Sounds ideal.
A. MMMHuh. (laughs)
Q. Your lupus is now in remission (Nettie was diagnosed with Lupus last year), but how do you take care of yourself differently now than you did before?
A. I’ve always eaten healthy, but I did try and eat healthier, I try and do things that will help me with the Lupus, to naturally help me: protein, work out some, stay away from drama and stress, I try and stay away from drama, but there’s only so much… Your family is calling you and I have my way of saying things… I have an open mind and when I have to say it, I say it. But I do try and stay away from stress and drama now.
Q. Every person I’ve told about (this interview) is amazed that you look the way you do after 9 pregnancies. How do you get that figure?
A. It’s the way that I’ve always eaten and genetics. All of my 7 sisters have the same figure and we’ve all had kids. My mother had 11 kids, and all of us are the same exact way.
Q. I’d like to ask you a few questions about how the show GYPSY SISTERS happened – as I understand it, you and Mellie were featured on MY BIG FAT AMERICAN GYPSY WEDDING first. What did you think when TLC offered you the show? Was it a hard decision for you or your family?
A. I didn’t even have to think about it, I knew I had to do it right away and my husband was all for it.
Q. You have such a wonderful opportunity to show the world what Romnichal life is like, at least a bit. What would you like people to know about your family and community?
A. I hoped that people wouldn’t stereotype us as “fortune teller Gypsies” and that they would see that we are a culture, that there are lots of different types of Gypsies, that we are not some kind of weirdoes, and that we are normal and we have a culture, so stop stereotyping.
Q. Do you speak the Romany language?
A. Yes I speak it in our home; it is an everyday language for us. Our children speak it, too.
If you haven’t seen the UK version of MY BIG FAT GYPSY WEDDING, it a trippy look into Gypsy weddings – and it IS all about the dress over there – and beyond, as Irish and English Travelers and Romany Gypsy culture meet modern England and Ireland, and the meeting of cultures doesn’t go very smoothly. The show features weddings so bloated by excess and alcohol, only imbibed by the men, mind you, that the weddings, confirmations, christenings and what have you (most of the Travelers seem to be devout Catholics) are banned from most venues by the outright xenophobic innkeepers in the UK. I wanted to find out what Nettie’s thoughts were about the show and the Travelers’ lifestyle in the UK.
Q. Did you watch the UK program MY BIG FAT GYPSY WEDDING? What did you think?
A. I felt really bad for those Gypsies. They looked like they were living a really poor lifestyle, and the non-Gypsies were looking down on them; it was terrible. Gypsies in the US are treated so much better than the English and Irish Travelers and Gypsies; I was just so surprised that they live really poorly.
Q. That seems to be where your ancestors come from. I’d love to see you on “Who Do You Think You Are?” Hey, TLC! (TLC now shows HDYTYA.)
A. Oh, yes, that would be so interesting to see where we come from and everything. I think my ancestors left that sort of lifestyle for the reasons that you see (on MBFGW).
Q. Are there things that have happened to you or your family because of the show, things that would not have happened otherwise? I’m thinking of Mellie’s reunion with her father.
A. Oh, I had been looking for him myself — if you look on twitter, months back, you’ll see that I had been doing that. I was 13 years old when he was with us, so I remembered him and had started to look for him.
Q. Do you watch “reality” television?
A. I love reality programs, especially GYPSY SISTERS and MYRTLE MANOR. Most of my favorite shows are TLC/Discovery Channel (laughs). I like A HAUNTING and FORENSIC FILES, too.
Words of wisdom and your thoughts about beauty
Q. How do you feel about plastic surgery and other tools like that? What do you think about getting older in general?
A. I would positively, absolutely do it. I’ve always said that I would do anything to not grow old, not to look old.
Q. When you were a tiny girl, what were your 3 wishes for grown-up Nettie when it came to your appearance? Have you achieved these?
A. I wished I’d have a fairy-tale life. I wished that I was going to have a little girl and a little boy. I guess I had too many wishes, I guess I just had to wait, because I went through some hard times and I didn’t get what I wanted.
Q. You had to wait.
A. I had to wait. I’ve gone through a lot.
Q. And it’s not over yet.
A. No, it’s not!
Stay tuned for more from Nettie: makeup reviews and a BIG makeup Haul!