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Posing for a photograph at the Smart Tan Downtown tanning convention in Nashville, Tenn., Nicole “Snooki” Polizzi, from MTV’s reality show Jersey Shore, scrawled a note to her boyfriend, Jionni, on one of her photographs.

To Jionni, I You Hottie, Always, Nicole

It was a tender moment for the self-proclaimed “guidette,” who tends to be more synonymous with raging on the dance floor to Tiesto, or talking openly about her “cuca,” than she is writing love notes to a beau.

Polizzi was in Nashville in October launching her new line of tanning lotions that she created with the help of Dallas-based indoor tanning company Supre Tan. The line, which features three leopard-spotted and blinged-out bottles of golden guido goodness (or orange guido goodness), is a dream come true for the reality starlet.

“I’ve been waiting to do my own tanning line for a while now,” she said. “I love tanning and like to be tanned, so I’m really, really proud of this product.”

She posed for more photographs--sure to filter out amongst the fashion blogs and celebrity gossip websites within hours--while fans impatiently waited outside of the booth for autographs. “Snooki!” they screamed, trying to get her to look at their camera phones. “Snooki right here! Just for just a moment! Please!” But she remained focused.

This was not Polizzi’s first trip to Nashville. Her first appearance was in 2009 during the CMT Music Awards, during which she shocked the usually demure audience during a stint involving herself, The Situation and surprisingly, Paula Dean. “Who did your hair, Crisco?” Dean asked The Situation, then she pulled up his shirt. “Mama Ho Cakes!” she declared. She asked him what his hobbies are. “Gym, tanning & laundry,” he replied. Dean responded, “Mine are garnish, tenderize and then I lard it!” as Snooki squealed in delight. A camera caught a quick shot of Reba and Taylor Swift, sitting together in the audience though, looking none too pleased (or was it outright aghast perhaps?).

We saw Polizzi again at the CMT Music Awards  a year later, very much a rising star. Backstage in the press room, an inquisitive reporter asked her, “What is it about this tan? Tell me about it. How do you get it? “I’ve always had it,” she replied. “I mean, I don’t really tan a lot. I have kind of a Spanish skin on me, but when I start tanning a lot, that’s when I get really dark. Me and Pauly, like, have competitions in the house.”

The attention is now nothing new for Polizzi, who was now sporting 2 publicists, a make-up artist, and 3 body guards.  In two years time, the New Jersey native had transformed herself (with the help of booze-infused antics and her trademark indomitable confidence) from a nameless vet tech to a household name. From the “spray-painted Chihuahua” Mike (The Situation) called her when he first saw her, she’s the face of Jersey Shore, now earning $35,000 per episode, up from $5000 two years ago. She has three million followers on Twitter; she has 600,000 Facebook friends; she’s been on every talk show you can think of (Regis Philbin and Ellen Degeneres are big fans; Degeneres even dressed as Polizzi’s pouf hairstyle last Halloween); she has her own line of Snooki jewelry; she has her own line of Snooki slippers; and has achieved a spot on the New York Times Bestseller list  to boot (albeit the book only made it to #24 on the list, and as last reported actually only sold 9,000 copies). Call her what you will (and she’s heard it all), but it’s undeniable that Snooki is a rare bird--a pop culture icon who’s ascended the mono-moniker’s Mt. Olympus and is seated comfortably at the right hand of Cher.

And then there’s the fact  she had hinted at years before, that she loves to tan. “Darkest,” is best, she claims. Which, according to Supre owner Bruce West, makes her the perfect spokesperson for not only the line, but the professional indoor tanning industry as a whole.

“She can pick up her phone and in seconds three million people can see that she thinks tanning is a good idea,” he said. “And when that happens we’re sending customers into the salons. We’re showing the world that tanning is a good thing. It makes you feel good; it makes you look good; and it’s something you want to do.”

West isn’t exaggerating, either. When you consider that she’s got a tax named after her (the indoor tanning services tax that President Obama tacked on to the Health Care Reform Bill this summer), and that she was able to convince Anderson Cooper to go tanning--on national TV--it’s easy to see the girl’s got pull.

But amidst all the hype, Polizzi understands that fame won’t last forever. The tanning line, she admits, is another effort to brand herself before Jersey Shore washes up. “I’m trying to build an empire,” she told Rolling Stone in March, “because after this, I cannot get a real job. I mean, how do I go and sit behind a desk? It’s insane.”

For now, at least, she doesn’t have to worry. With the fourth season of Shore still dominating cable ratings, and a fifth season slated for premiere in January, Snooki isn’t going anywhere anytime soon.

Except for the tanning bed, maybe. / Issue 128 - September 2018
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