Every Thursday night in 2010 we had a tradition in my sorority: Watch Jersey Shore and head to a local bar with a 25–cent-draws special. The scene wasn’t all that different from that on the show, despite the fact that mid-Missouri is landlocked a good 1,000 miles from Jerz. “Like a G6” blasted from our iHomes as we teased our hair, clipped it half up, and debated which jeans and cute going-out top we’d wear.
I loved everything about Jersey Shore. The drinking, the drama (Ronnie and Sammy, always), the absurdly obnoxious catchphrases (Cabs are here! Fist pump! GTL!), but nothing spoke to me more than Nicole Polizzi, aka Snooki. Snooki in many ways represented a kind of attitude I dreamed of having. She loved a night out, sure—something I as a fellow college “party girl” most certainly identified with—but it was more than her ability to put down a fifth that I admired. She was fun, the center of attention, and supremely confident in who she was. That and the fact that she took no shit.
“Guidette” wasn’t necessarily the main aesthetic I was going for (I worked at Hollister and leaned more preppy), but her beauty look was everything. I watched her getting-ready scenes with the careful fixation a Gen Z-er would have for a YouTube tutorial today. I bought the same Aussie hairspray she used. I spent hours poring over hair extension bundles at Sally Beauty to find the perfect match for my hair. (Spoiler: They didn’t exist, so I brought the closest fit to my stylist to cut and color them.) I never did buy a Bump-It, but I can certainly say I unironically thought about it. And when her line of tanning lotions eventually came out, I (regrettably) hauled my zebra-print bottle into Tan Co and smothered myself in its “Jerseylicious” scent.
Of course, the show didn’t come without its controversy. Many found it shockingly vulgar and an offensive characterization of Italian Americans. In 2012, when the show was ending, Entertainment Weekly wrote it would have absolutely no lasting legacy. “It already plays like one of those ancient artifacts of papyrus—a newspaper, I believe they were called—that has been crumpled and tossed to the air,” read the critique. And yet Snooki—and our love for her brash candor—refused to fizzle away into the forgotten pool of reality TV stars.
Instead, Snooki turned her image into a wildly successful business. She launched that line of tanning lotions, collaborated with nail polish brands, and now has her own online shop. She went on to write three books, one of which (A Shore Thing) was a New York Times best-seller. Her net worth is an estimated $4 million—not bad for a party-girl meatball. Our cultural fascination runs so deep with the Shore squad that MTV brought the crew back in 2018 for a sequel, Jersey Shore: Family Vacation, which Snooki just announced she’s leaving in order to spend more time with her three kids, Lorenzo, Giovanna, and Angelo.
So to end the decade in the only way fitting, I caught up with Snooki to talk about the legacy she’s left on the 2010s, the pouf, and what’s next for her now that she’s officially retiring from the show.
What originally made you want to go on a reality TV show?
Well, at the time, I’d just turned 21 and I was going to school. I was in that phase where you don’t really know what you want to do with your life. The only thing I knew I wanted to do, and I don’t know why, was make it on a reality show. I was a huge fan of Real World, which I really wanted to be on. But then when I saw the casting for Jersey Shore, it felt everything like who I am. Plus, I saw that it was on the Shore and I wanted to go there anyway. So I literally tried out just so I could get free alcohol and a free shore house.
I mean, obviously. What else would you want at 21?
When did you first realize you had made it big?
The first time Mike, Pauly, Jenni, and I had to go to L.A. for press. We didn’t know what we were doing, and we were supposed to be there for two days. Then all the talk shows realized we were there, and we ended up staying for like two weeks. We were on all the top late-night shows, and we went to all these press outlets. We were like, What is going on? And then when we were going out in L.A., we went to the club and we realized we were there with Lindsay Lohan and Leonardo DiCaprio. That’s when we realized, like, we’re cool.
LiLo was the coolest especially…
Well, that was when she had her ankle bracelet, so that’s why she was really cool.
Oh yes, of course.
Yeah, like, hotness cool.
Tell me the story behind the pouf. Where did you first get the inspo for it?
It was definitely a Jersey thing. If you came to Jersey Shore—or really, Jersey at all—in 2007 through 2009, that was the hairstyle all the girls were wearing. It was like a big thing. And if you didn’t wear a pouf, then you weren’t Jersey enough.
What did that mean? If you weren’t Jersey enough?
Well, here’s the mentality: Everyone tries to be the best, everyone wants to look the best. So I feel like all the girls were always competing with each other.
So it was like you wanted it to be higher or poufier or…
Exactly. Whoever had the highest pouf, the best boobs, and the most animal print, it was basically like you won.
I mean, truly after the show, that’s pretty much how it was in my sorority in Missouri. We passed a teasing comb around from door to door. If you didn’t have the pouf out, what were you doing? Which brings me to my next question: How did it feel for you when you realized that millions of women were suddenly copying your hairstyle?
I was kind of like, Why? I’m trash. I knew I wasn’t all that. It was weird to me, but at the same time, it was pretty awesome, obviously. I never understood it because, to me, I just considered myself trash.
I don’t know. I guess at the time I just never took myself seriously. So the fact that people wanted to look like me, I was like, Why?
You did eventually capitalize on that fact, though. I remember you had an entire line of tanning products, a nail polish collection, and a fuzzy slipper collab, to name just a few. So at a certain point you became very business savvy about your image. How did that happen?
Well, when you’re on a number one show, you start getting all these offers to do brands and stuff. I had a ton of offers to things that I actually turned down because I was like, “That’s not even me. I’m not going to do this just to make a buck.” I really wanted things that I was doing to be authentic and me. So when it came to doing nail polish and tanning oils and all of that stuff, it just made sense.
What are your thoughts on tanning now? Is GTL still a thing for you?
With three kids, it’s not at all. I definitely try because I love to be tan, and I still love to do tanning stuff. But I don’t know when the last time was that I actually had the chance to go and lay in a bed.
I mean, we knew that from the beginning. I never thought that tanning was safe for you.
Do you use self-tanner at all or is your tan right now your natural skin tone?
Right now it’s natural because I just had my third baby, and I barely have time for myself. Honestly, I don’t really care what I look like at this point. It’s all about my kids.
Did you ever feel pressured to change the way you look, or change your image? Especially, as you guys were getting big.
No, because I was a hot mess. I still am. So I never tried to be something that I wasn’t. I wore frickin’ Forever21 on the red carpet, and I was always myself. That’s the thing that I cherish, honestly, because it didn’t change me at all.
When you got rid of the pouf, you said you wanted to have a more mature look. Why was that important to you at the time?
It was just a part of growing up like everybody else does. That hairstyle didn’t fit me anymore. And it was becoming more of me instead of the person who I am. Everyone asked about it. I was, like, “Dude, I’m 26 years old. I don’t want to wear it anymore. I’m over it.”
How do you want your hair to convey you now?
Oh, I don’t even care. As long as my hair looks clean and it’s brushed and washed, that’s all I care about. But honestly for me, day to day at this point, my hair is always up. I never wear makeup and I’m always in workout clothes. I just want to be a comfortable mom.
Are there any catchphrases from the show that you still use in your daily life?
Not really. I feel like mine was, “Wah,” and that’s it. I don’t even remember what I used to say. I mean, Team Meatball is still a thing, so that’s cute. It started when Ron called me and Deena fat. He was like, “You guys are meatballs.” We were like, “Oh, cool. Fine, we’re Team Meatball.” And that’s how it started. He tried to hurt our feelings, and we were like, “No, bye.”
Do you ever watch any old episodes from the show? Have you ever revisited them?
Yeah, when they’re on I watch them sometimes. But sometimes it’s so cringeworthy that I just can’t. It’s disgusting.
Was there a specific episode you had to look away from or be like, “Nope, can’t do this.”
Yeah. Every single episode. Like, “Why am I wearing that? Why am I so crazy? Calm down.” So dramatic.
So back then, did you have to bring your own beauty products on set or were brands sending you things?
We had to bring all of our own things that we had to buy. We didn’t have makeup artists like the Kardashians. We still don’t. But because we had to do everything ourselves, it was very real and authentic. I think that’s why we do so well—we’re not fake.
What are the products you swear by now?
Usually all my makeup I get at the drugstore. So CVS, and I’m into ColourPop. I also love a lip tone, which is why I made my Snooki Balms. My other favorites right now would probably be eyebrow shadow and mascara. But lately I’ve been getting my brows hennaed, so I don’t even have to deal with filling them in.
Is there a beauty trend from the late 2000s you wish would come back?
Probably bronzer, because I know bronzers aren’t in right now.
Back to that more-is-more look?
Yeah, I love plastering bronzer on me. Even though I broke out terribly from it. But just the era of bronzer and everyone wanting to be orange was amazing.
Is there a trend you never want to come back again?
No, I feel like I love everything. Well, when it comes to us and our looks, I feel like I loved it all. I think even the high hair and the tan skin, I wouldn’t mind doing that once in a while.
So the pouf isn’t dead? It could come back?
No, the pouf is dead. But high hair, I mean, that’s always okay.
Is reality TV—or being in the public eye in some way—something you want to continue doing now that you’re retiring from Jersey Shore, or are you hoping to take a break from it?
I definitely don’t want to quit [being on TV]. It’s my job, and I love it. I just need something that fits me and my lifestyle. Leaving the kids for days on end and doing things I’m not comfortable doing anymore, I can’t do it. But there’s an opportunity where I can do a show that fits me being a mom and still lets me enjoy myself, that’s what I’m looking for right now. Work, have fun, be myself, and then come home to be a mom at the end of the day. I need a balance.
How was it being back on the show? I’m sure that was exciting, but also tough, like you were saying with your kids.
Well, yeah, it was definitely exciting and I loved it. But then I was getting too depressed not being with my kids. The days were dragging, and I was just forcing myself to be in that situation. I hated that feeling.
Was it hard to be back around that lifestyle? I mean, the early Jersey Shore days were all about partying. Get drunk, go to the shore, go out, cabs are here—that was the thing. In your 30s, was it more difficult to be back in that scenario?
No, I still loved it. But doing it every single night? I’d be out at the bar when I’d rather be home snuggling with my kids. I missed them. It was just like, What am I doing? Once in a while I love going out. I love going to a club. I love going to dinner and drinking. It’s not like I’m saying I hate partying. It just needs to be a balance. I need to still be a mother at the same time.
What are you looking forward to most in the next decade?
Oh, God. I hope I’m still alive. I don’t know. Maybe another kid? We’ll see. I just want to be the best mom that I can be to my kids, obviously. And hopefully find my next career move. I just want it to be a positive environment for me—no drama. I’m not here to fight with people. I just want to have a good time, laugh, and then call it a day.
Lindsay Schallon is the senior beauty editor at Glamour. Follow her on Instagram @lindsayschallon. This interview has been edited and condensed.
Originally Appeared on Glamour