Read an Excerpt
Big Beauty Rules
You can’t control that much in life. Bad things happen. Accidents. Arrests. Problems hit you out of nowhere. But hair? That’s one thing we can (usually) rely on. It’s a comfort to know that you can do something small—a mani-pedi, a blowout—and feel a whole lot better about life, no matter what’s going on outside the salon. I’m not saying beauty treatments will make your mortgage payments disappear or turn your no-good husband into a prince. But even in a big life, the little things help a lot. When you look good, you feel good. I don’t know any woman on earth who’d deny that essential truth.
ALWAYS HAVE A TAN
Even in the dead of winter, I have a tan. I just don’t feel right without it. When my skin gets a little bit pale, it feels like I’m walking around completely naked—and not in a good way.
In the bedroom of one of my former houses, I had a full-size tanning bed set up next to the regular bed. I called it the bedsroom. The tanning bed, a gift from my baby sister, Janine, was a huge apparatus with long tubes on the top lid and a bottom platform where you lay down. I’d stretch out on it—completely nude; who wants tan lines?—every night for a few minutes. It was my peaceful time to myself.
If I hadn’t used it, I would probably be dead now from vitamin D deficiency. Most people take natural sunlight for granted. They’re out there, soaking it up like human sponges, just doing their daily business. Bartenders like me, who start the day in the middle of the afternoon and don’t go to bed until dawn, just don’t get enough sunshine. That’s why I called my old bar Nocturnals, for all the creatures of the night, like me. How funny that everyone who went there had deep dark tans! I love my vacations in the tropics. But you can’t cram an entire year’s worth of sun exposure into a couple of weeks in Aruba.
So I adored the tanning bed . . . until I started dreading it. Claustrophobia hit me out of nowhere. Whenever I closed myself into that contraption, I’d feel anxious. When I was younger, I wasn’t afraid of anything. I’d ride the Cyclone at Coney Island all day long. The roller-coaster experience—the dips, jolts, and turns—used to be fun. I enjoyed feeling out of control. But now, at fifty-two, I never go on amusement park rides anymore. I don’t want to feel upside down, belly churning like crazy. If I want thrills nowadays, I . . . well, actually, I don’t want them. Now, I want calm. It’s enough for me to just get through the week in one piece. I came to hate closing myself into that coffinlike tanning bed. So I gave it to my cousin Sallyann, and she keeps it in her garage.
So now, I get a spray tan at the salon a couple of times a month. I go into a stall, like a shower, and a few nozzles blast bronzer at my body from top to bottom, front and back. On an episode of Mob Wives, a girl set up a temporary tanning booth at my house. My castmate Drita and I put on our bikinis and got sprayed. It was great because when a professional applies the stuff, you get an even all-over tan, including the tricky spots like the armpits and the underboob area. The worst is when you do the automatic booth and miss a huge patch, or your face gets nut brown and your neck is white as glue.
IT’S ALL ABOUT THE HAIR
My hair always looks good. My girl Tina—aka the Chinese Big Ang—at Beyond Beauty salon in Staten Island does my blowouts a couple of times a week. My hair has a natural wave to it, but I prefer it stick straight. I’ve tried to straighten it myself, but I do a lousy job. I don’t even own a hair dryer or a flat iron.
One of the reasons I don’t exercise: if I sweat, I’ll ruin my blowout.
I’ve experimented with haircuts and color over the years. I’ve had bangs on and off. I love, love, love superlong extensions, in black and in every color of the rainbow. I’ve been blond a few times. I think every woman should mix it up by going blond at least once in her life, if only with a decent wig. You put on a new head of hair and feel like a new woman. Instant cure for boredom.
Early on in my pregnancy with my son, A.J., I decided I wanted to go blond. So I had my hair bleached and walked out of the salon with a gorgeous head of long blond hair and loved it. I went to bed and woke up bald. The hair fell out! I didn’t know you’re not supposed to dye your hair during the first trimester. There I was, pregnant, getting bigger every day, and bald as a rock.
For months, I wore hats. Cool hats. I rocked a fedora. But still.
Eventually, my hair did grow back in. For a time, though, it was supershort and white blond. This was 1989. New Wave was hot and I had perfect hair for it. I was right on trend, totally by accident.
“Ang can pull off any hairstyle in a big way. For my thirtieth birthday, she planned a party for me. Our crew went to the Short Hills Hilton for the night. At the time, she had really short blond hair. When we pulled up to the entrance of the hotel in a limo, people were looking in the windows, trying to see who it was. Ang stepped out the limo, tall and glamorous with the short blond hair. People were asking, ‘Who is that?’ We told everyone she was Brigitte Nielsen. They believed it and kept pushing in to get a picture with her.”
“When Ang had long blond hair, people on the street stopped her all the time thinking she was some celebrity or another. I remember going shopping with her, and a woman mistook Ang for Victoria Gotti. Ang is tall, and Victoria is petite. But it didn’t matter. Ang always looks so great, everyone assumes she has to be someone famous.”
GO LONG OR GO LONGER
It takes two hours to put on my bling-bling nails. Time well spent. I get to relax and chat with Tina. I walk out of the salon with gorgeous square-shaped gel tips with two dozen individually attached rhinestones. The nails are long, of course, about two inches. I smile every time I look at them. It’s a great trick to have to look no further than the backs of my hands to find shine and sparkle. Just doing boring, everyday things like dialing the phone or pouring a drink draws my attention to my elegant nails, and I instantly feel like a glamazon.
Only drawback: it is hard to chop garlic.
“Angela has been coming to my salon for five years, and we’ve formed a very good friendship. She’s been a big part of my salon’s success. She helped me get more and more customers as the years went by, by telling everyone how much she loves my shop.
“I am an immigrant from China. Not once did Angela make a racist remark about me—you’d be surprised what people do say. I am so happy to be her friend. Quality friends are hard to come by.”
—Tina, owner of Beyond Beauty
What could be prettier than superlong, thick, dark eyelashes? I’m not a fan of false lashes, with the glue and having to peel them off. Instead, I get eyelash extensions—a fake lash is glued on to each of my own individual lashes, making them twice as long and thick. It takes a couple of hours to fill in every few weeks and it costs a fortune. But on the plus side, I never need mascara. Every flutter of my eyelids is like being in a movie from the sixties, when all the girls had huge lashes and big eyes. I find people staring at my lashes, trying to figure out what’s going on there. I get a kick out of watching them react. First, the Wow! Then, a little confusion. And then, just awe.
“Ang was always the first to try something new. Even as a teenager, she was the first to get waxed or get streaks in her hair. She always recommended people, too. ‘I’ve got a great hair person,’ she’d say, or, ‘This is the best place to buy shoes.’ She’s not the kind of woman who keeps a great store or stylist to herself. She wants her friends to get in on her finds. And everyone does. Ang is a trendsetter.”
Fans of Mob Wives remember when I bungled a belly dance with Karen and Ramona on the show. Ramona said that I couldn’t do the moves because of my “beyond-enormous boobs.” It was kind of a bitchy comment, but whatever. She might be right: My center of gravity is higher than a normal woman’s. Gyrating my hips was exhausting! Never again. I do not see belly dancing in my future. Same goes for yoga, Zumba, Pilates—all that bouncy, bendy crap. Back in the eighties, I danced at Pastels, a famous disco in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn, for hours and never got tired. But that was then. Disco is dead, in case you haven’t heard. (RIP Donna Summer.)
Nowadays, if I want exercise, I take Little Louie on long walks through Staten Island’s Clove Lakes and Silver Lake Parks. I lift my three-year-old grandson, Sal, and chase after him. I stand for hours in heels while bartending at the Drunken Monkey, which keeps my calf, tummy, and butt muscles tight. But if it’s not about my pets, my kids, or my work, I don’t do traditional gym exercise. Self-torture is not part of my lifestyle.
Okay, once I hired a trainer. I was under house arrest at the time and figured, since I was stuck at home, I might as well try to get in shape. She came over every week and put me through the paces. Running in place. Lunges. Crunches. Pushups. With my boobs? Ridiculous. I don’t mean to knock my trainer. I loved her! But working out was horrible. As soon as my house arrest ended, so did our sessions.
My friend Margo got it in her head awhile ago that all our friends should get in shape together. She made a gym room in her house, with exercise machines, weights, music, and TVs, a whole setup. If you didn’t show up at her place for the scheduled workout, you had to put money into a kitty. If you did show up, as incentive you could do a shot or have a cigarette break after every fifteen minutes of exercising. Well, you can guess what happened. For a while, we all showed when we were supposed to. We’d barely break a sweat, then we’d start drinking and smoking and call the workout done for the day. But even that got to be too much. So we’d just stuff the kitty every week for all the workouts we missed. Before long, it got to be a lot of money. We talked about what we were going to do with it. Since everyone had the same idea, it wasn’t a tough decision: We splurged on a massive feast at one of our favorite restaurants. So much for getting in shape.
I’ve been thinking lately, though, that I should try again and join a gym, lift some weights, get Dieseled up. My daughter, Raquel, has decided to start running every day while the baby naps. She puts on shorts and sneakers and runs the three-mile loop around the park—twice. I get winded running my mouth. We’ll see. If hitting the gym doesn’t work out, there’s always lipo.
IT’S WORTH IT
Whatever you do to look good is worth the time and money. I’m not saying everyone should have superlong nails or get eyelash extensions. But I do believe pampering yourself a few times a month forces you to relax, slow down, and make a necessary mental adjustment. You’ll leave the salon feeling better than you did when you walked in, which will make you happier and more fun to be around. And that’s what it’s all about: Doing what you can to make yourself and the people you love feel good.