This past season of Jersey Shore saw a lot of changes in the lives of the cast, but arguably no cast member went through as many alterations as Vinny Guadagnino. Immediately following the roommates' return from Italy, they reconvened in Seaside Heights, New Jersey, to spend the remainder of their summer partying and having fun. While that objective was eventually fulfilled, it took a while to get there. After the roommates returned to the U.S., the season's first few episodes saw Vinny struggling with anxiety problems due to the strenuous shooting schedule. Issues, he said, that he'd been dealing with most of his life. After a short absence from the Shore house for some downtime, Vinny returned midway and finished off the season with the rest of the cast.
For even the most seasoned Jersey Shore viewer, Vinny's revelation may have come as a major surprise; generally seen as the most calm, cool, and collected dude in the house, next to perhaps Pauly D, Vinny had been given any indications about problems or stresses in the past.
Now, Vinny is coming out with a new book, titled Control the Crazy, to talk more in depth about dealing with anxiety issues. Though, and he'll be the first to tell you, the advice the first-time author offers in the book are all pearls of wisdom that anyone can benefit from, no matter what they're dealing with in their lives. Drawing from various methods of relaxation, meditation, and learning to control ones own mind, Control the Crazy is, perhaps, not a book featuring the sort of subject matter one would expect to see from a Jersey Shore alum. However, after considering his impressive credentials—a bachelor's degree in Political Science, and aspirations to be involved in politics and former dreams of attending law school—it's exactly the type of book one would expect to see from Vinny.
With Control the Crazy hitting book shelves today, Complex spoke to the Jersey Shore vet about the publishing process, his experiences dealing with anxiety issues, and his thoughts on The Pauly D Project.
Interview by Tanya Ghahremani (@tanyaghahremani)
First of all, I read your book, it was really great.
You must be so excited.
I am. I’m excited for people to finally start reading it, because the process has been about a year or something like that: a year for the actual book itself, and just three years of me putting it together in my head. So I’m definitely excited to share it with people that I know have never heard this kind of stuff before.
You’ve always seemed to be the super-chill guy on the show, so it was a huge surprise last season in Jersey Shore to see that you’ve been dealing with anxiety issues for a good chunk of your life. What made you want to speak out now?
Well, the reason why I’m always so chill and usually able to help out other people is because I have been to dark places myself. I’ve had some rough times myself, so I was able to, like, learn things and I always try to stay in a giving state of mind, so that’s why I’m usually playing the peacekeeper on the show. But like I said, there’s a reason why I know all that stuff, it’s because I can be set off occasionally as well. And the show is reality. They caught me at a time when my stress level was through the roof because we were filming so much, and it was just there, I couldn’t fight it anymore. It’s not something that’s fightable, especially when you’re exposed like that; the more you try to fight it, the worse it’ll feel.
So I just kind of opened up about it, was honest about it… I’m like, you know, this is my life right now, this is my past in life. I’m gonna just own it and accept it. What got me through was saying that one day I’m gonna share this stuff with other people, and maybe there’s a reason why millions of people are watching me go through this. Maybe it’s for the benefit of other people, and I can help people one day, and that’s honestly what got me through.
Since the fifth season aired, have you received any feedback from people who might have the same issues?
Oh my god, every day. Like, amazing, just story after story and thank you's, and people being so thankful. It’s just amazing, they’re thanking me just for saying the words, because it’s such a lonely thing, a lot of people don’t even know what it is that they’re feeling. It’s not easily labeled; you don’t have to label it, and a lot of people don’t. I didn’t for the longest time myself, and I still don’t label it, really, I just occasionally feel like crap, and when someone else sees someone else going through it, they’re like, “God, thank you! Someone else has these feelings!” It makes them feel better automatically. So, I hope all those people will actually get the book and really take it one step further, and not only see that I’ve gone through it, but see that there’s actually ways to manage it, easily.
Right. I feel like a lot of people do have anxiety issues, and it’s an issue that's not really represented on television or in the media that well. It’s just not talked about much.
Yeah. Definitely not. It’s usually kind of embarrassing, saying, like, “You’re weak,” because it’s a fearful thing, you know? Anxiety is set off by fear, that’s why it exists, everybody has it, it’s how humans adapted to survive over the years. But the funniest thing is, every single interview I give, to every radio host, to like, the biggest, toughest ones in the game, to every TV show I go on, when they hear about it, they’re like, “Oh my god, I feel the same way sometimes, Vinny!”
It’s just like this unspoken secret that like everybody feels, and they can only talk about it once they hear that someone else has it. Once they can identify with someone else, then it’s OK to talk about it, but it’s never OK just to come out and say it, you know.
It’s true. People don’t want to look weak in front of others.
Yeah, and I’m trying to make people look stronger for doing it. What I had to do is… You know, I’m on a show about partying and having fun, and I’m always like the cool, calm guy, and it took a lot of strength to say that stuff in front of millions of people, and sometime I hadn’t even said it to my own parents. It is what it is; I had to do it, and now I’m trying to turn it into a positive thing.
How did the decision to write a book come about?
When you’re a celebrity, you think of different things to do with your career. Like, do you want to go on another TV show? Do you want to go into music? You have a platform, and the book thing always comes up. My other cast-mates have written books. And I went to school for political science; I was always academic, and I had always considered writing a book, but I just didn’t know what to write a book about. Simultaneously, I was studying this field of spirituality and self-improvement through all these other books that I’ve read. I was addicted. I read one after the other, I attended seminars, and I was just doing this on the side. I was just putting it together in my head, not because I wanted to write a book.
And then as I became really educated in this field, I started to put together something in my own head, and said, "You know what? Maybe one day I’ll release this." I typed up a little proposal—this is before Season Five—and once Season Five happened, like I said, I was like, “Now I’m gonna share this with people because I need to help people.” Because, to get out of my own head, I wanted to help as many people as I could, and I felt that, like I said, I was going through this for a purpose. That’s what really solidified the idea, and all aspirations I had of writing the book became reality once that happened.
How did the process of getting it sold to a publisher go down?
Really amazing, actually. One of the things I talk about is the power of intention, and the laws of attraction and all tha. It was just like everything just led to each other. My management company, they actually work next door to a literary agent, Foundry, and when I had the idea, we talked about it with them. And Foundry, they were pretty inspired, because when I talk about this stuff, it’s not BS; it comes from the heart, so they liked the idea. Then they were like, “Wow, we have the perfect writer if you want to collaborate. Her name is Samantha Rose. Let me see if she’s available.”
Samantha was available, so we wrote a proposal together. A proposal’s like a chapter of what the book is going to be about. And then my literary agent, she’s awesome, she knows all of the biggest publishers in the game, and we just went around and said, “Hey, check out these proposals. You’ll never believe that someone from the Jersey Shore is writing this type of stuff!” They ended up reading it, and everybody who’s ever read the proposal ended up loving it, and through a process of interviews and stuff, Crown Random House ended up being my publisher. And I’m really happy, because they’re awesome.
For someone who hasn’t read the book, if you could give one bit of advice to someone dealing with anxiety and depression, what would it be?
Well… Just one more thing, I want to make sure that people know: If I had to give a message to anybody that wants to read this book, I would say, this isn’t a book for somebody with anxiety/depression.
I know the stuff that I know, and the little tips and workouts that I give, I was led there because I have anxiety, but anybody can benefit from this stuff. Whether you’re in a tough relationship, whether you’re addicted to drugs, whether you’re trying to lose weight: these are all just mechanisms for quieting your mind, because your thoughts are the roots of all evil. That’s what I would say to people: You give your thoughts their own reality, and if you don’t take your thoughts so seriously, and realize that they’re just thoughts, then your life can be a lot happier. Live in the moment, and don’t let your thoughts ruin your life. You can solve a lot of problems like that, including anxiety, weight loss, bullies. Just everything.
So, basically, you can be your own worst enemy if you let yourself be?
No one else is physically putting these feelings inside of you; no one is injecting you with a needle of insecurity or anxiety. It’s you giving everything a meaning, because you’re taking your thoughts so seriously, and your ego. So that’s one thing you realize, and really, the way out of it is realizing it and accepting it. The easiest and hardest thing to do in life is just to be present, there, and not let your thoughts ruin your day.
Switching gears a bit, I saw that you were recently in Cannes. Any interesting stories from your time there?
I wish I did, honestly! It’s not really the season right now for Cannes. I was at a MIP, and it was kind of corporate, it wasn’t really like the film festival where every club and bar is open. It was educational for me, though. I saw how the international TV industry works. I got to represent for MTV and Chris Linn, our executive producer of the show, so that was cool. Then I went to Paris, and I saw some art. It was another accomplishment in life, because I try to set goals, and I never thought I’d be traveling places. I’ve been to places all around Europe, and I wanted Paris to be one of them. So, it wasn’t like off-the-wall crazy, but, it was definitely an educational accomplishment.
With the news that Snooki is pregnant, and Mike, "The Situation," just got out of a two-week stint in rehab, next season of Jersey Shore stands to be a lot different than the past. What are your thoughts on that?
Well, the way the show is filmed, it’s a documentary: There’s no pretense, there’s nothing that they set up. I don’t know who’s going to come back, or what they’re going to do, they just say, “Vinny, be here,” and we go, then the show is created from there. So, I don’t know what the differences are going to be, or what it’s going to be like, but after the show films, then we can tell people, “Oh, OK, yeah, this had an effect,” or “That had an effect.” But as of right now, it’s just a mystery.
So, you’re definitely coming back.
Yeah, I’m on board. I know the same thing that everyone else knows. I read in the press that there’s gonna be a season six, and I was like, “OK!” Unless they change anything, I’m coming back.
You give your thoughts their own reality, and if you don’t take your thoughts so seriously, and realize that they’re just thoughts, then your life can be a lot happier. Live in the moment, and don’t let your thoughts ruin your life.
What about after the Shore? You just released a book, and I know you’ve said you want to pursue acting. What do you have planned?
I continue to take acting very seriously. I go to acting classes, I keep on auditioning and doing these little guest spot roles just to build up a resume, so that’s my main dream. It’s not something I think can happen so easily; I mean, I hope it does. But that’s like my main, main dream.
And until then, I’m going to keep on taking opportunities that come my way from being on this platform, such as writing this book, maybe hosting something… I just want to keep busy, and keep doing something I love to do, and just have a steady income from being around the entertainment industry. Like I said, my main goal is acting, that’s the main dream, but until then I just want to keep on keeping on, keep busy. I’m a creative guy, so I think there’s a lot of opportunities for me to do that.
I know there’s still a lot of people who don’t know that you originally wanted to go into law and politics, and you said you majored in political science in school. Have you ever considered going back into those fields?
Well, I’ve always had a passion for politics, even at MTV. I join a lot of their social movements, where they’re involved in a lot of grassroots movements through kids, and I like to be involved in that, whether it’s sexual education, anti-bullying, whatever it is. So I always keep involved in some kind of politics, I always find a way to keep involved, because that stuff is political. Maybe one day when I’m older and wearing a suit everyday, I’ll start to consider running for something, I don’t know. I’d have to do a lot of campaigning, because people have another image of me right now.
Mayor of Seaside, perhaps?
Yeah, exactly. I’ll definitely get that vote. But if I want to get other votes, I got to say, “Guys, I was just having fun!” But that’s why I wanted to get me law degree, so I can do things like that. Because I feel like a law degree… I didn’t necessarily want to be a lawyer, but I wanted to be able to run for something, or work for foreign policy or something. Just having a degree helps.
I saw a review about Pauly’s new show, The Pauly D Project, and it said that said he’s cheating on you with four other quote-unquote bros. How do you feel about that?
We have an open relationship, and we share each other… It’s kind of like a "don’t ask, don’t tell" type of thing. No, those are my boys, his crew. I’ve known them for a while since I’ve met Pauly, and they’re all good kids, and I really, genuinely wish them success. I hope they have a lot of fun, because they’re really good kids, and they’ve always been. They’re not douchebags. So it’s fun watching them, because I know them.
So you’re not too heartbroken.
[Laughs.] A little bit. A little bit.
Interview by Tanya Ghahremani (@tanyaghahremani)