Tag Archives: reality tv

Glendale Romani gypsy teens share arranged marriage on docuseries

| kmedoff@queenscourier.com

Photos courtesy of FYI/"Arranged"

Many kids are told that their parents know best, but two Glendale teens really had to trust that was true as they prepared for their arranged marriage in September.

What was it like to marry a stranger at such a young age? Viewers can find out by watching their journey on FYI’s new docuseries, “Arranged,” which follows this Romani gypsy couple from Queens, as well as a southern couple in their 20s from the “Bible belt” and an Indian couple in their 30s in Beverly Hills, California.

Maria and Christian Miller of Queens, both 18, barely knew each other when their parents arranged their marriage. When Christian found out who he was going to marry, he “made an effort” to get to know Maria by secretly contacting her online, because he “didn’t want to go in totally blind,” he said. But he didn’t learn much.

“Her mother and father would constantly be watching her, so she couldn’t really get to the computer all the time; she couldn’t get to the phone all the time,” Christian said. “So how much can you really learn about a person on the computer and talking for only a few minutes?”

Before the wedding, Christian was hoping “that a lot of people would come and that everything would go smoothly,” he said. Even though there were no formal invitations and family and friends learned about the wedding through phone calls and word of mouth, if there aren’t a couple hundred people in attendance, “that’s a big embarrassment at a gypsy wedding.”

Maria arrived at the party — which took place before the actual wedding ceremony — wearing an orange dress that her parents bought for her. Then, she changed into a blue dress from her mother-in-law and father-in-law to symbolize that “I’m no longer my family’s; I’m their daughter now and part of their family,” she said. Finally, she changed into her white wedding dress, also bought by the parents of the groom.

After the wedding, Maria would be moving in with Christian, his parents, Michael and Nina, and his younger brothers.

“My whole life is about to change in the blink of an eye and I can’t even believe it,” Maria said on the docuseries before her wedding. “I’m leaving my family to live with a total new family that I just don’t know and I’m really, really scared.”

The couple with Christian's parents, Nina and Michael

The couple with Christian’s parents, Nina and Michael

Yet this experience is “normal” for Romani gypsies, Michael said, noting that his ancestors’ marriages have been arranged for generations. “And they’re all to death do they part,” Nina said on the first episode.

“It’s normal for us,” Michael said. “At 17, 18, 19, your mind is set for marriage, and so it’s not anything new … you’re expecting it.”

There are “maybe a couple thousand” people in the Romani gypsy community in New York City, Michael said, about 500 of whom live in Queens.

“We’re a small community and we all know each other,” said Michael, who grew up in Richmond Hill and used to live in Middle Village. His family and others in the community are spread out around those areas, as well as Rego Park, Forest Hills, Howard Beach and Ozone Park.

The couple hopes that their inclusion on the show will help bust stereotypes about their culture.

“I just want everyone to know that gypsy people are normal people,” Maria said. “We’re all about tradition. We’re all about family. We all love each other. We’re all a happy family.”

“The stereotypes are pretty bad,” Christian added. “We’re not cons; we’re not thieves. We’re nothing like that. We’re normal people. We want to show them we’re a good, clean-cut family and there’s no reason for anyone to be afraid of us. We want to show that we’re not the way people think of us, the way they portray us on other TV shows.”

And his father, who has seen generations of long, happy marriages, wants “to show our traditions. We do arranged marriages that work. If you listen to your father and mother it works out,” he said. “Maria and Christian have been married for six months and they’re doing good.”

“Arranged” premieres on Tuesday, April 14, at 10:15 p.m. on FYI.



Fresh Meadows man stars on new reality show ‘Little Women: NY’

| ctumola@queenscourier.com

Photos by Patrick Eccelsine

Jason Perez may be a little man, but he is representing the biggest borough on a new Lifetime reality show.

Perez, a 27-year-old Queens College student from Fresh Meadows, is starring on “Little Women: NY,” premiering Wednesday night.

Standing at 4 feet 4 inches tall, he is the only male cast member among seven little people whose lives are documented on the series, which takes a look at how the group of friends navigates the Big Apple.

lwny_gallery-jason_150112-pe-021“New York is one big city and we are little women…well, six little women and the one guy that can handle them,” the first episode starts.

“Little Women: NY” is a spin-off of the network’s hit reality show “Little Women: LA,” which just concluded its second season on March 18 and featured New York cast member Lila Call in several of its recent episodes.

A friend of “Little Women: LA” cast member and executive producer Terra Jolé, who is also an executive producer for the New York version, Perez was easily convinced to appear on the new show.

“I think it will be very enlightening, very educational. It will also take the stress of the day off,” he said, promising the one-hour program will bring as much reality show-style drama as its West Coast counterpart and a true look into the world of little people.

Born in Brooklyn to a close-knit Filipino family, Perez grew up in Ozone Park before moving to Fresh Meadows in 2000, where he attended St. Francis Prep.

Though he faced bullying because of his dwarfism and is the only little person in his family, he said his loved ones have always given him strength.

“They just took me as a regular person,” Perez said. His parents always told him to “cry but not for long” and to “just get up and keep moving.”

After high school, he earned a culinary arts degree and started working as a cook. But his childhood love for performing led him from the kitchen to a job as a singing server.

Today, he is studying political science and history at Queens College, but is still pursuing his passion for entertainment through performing, and voice, dance and acting lessons. He has even won several talent competitions, including at the MGM Grand Las Vegas and the Coney Island Talent Show, and has performed in Radio City’s Christmas Spectacular.

Perez is also hoping to entertain viewers on “Little Women: NY,” which he says will step it up a notch from its LA counterpart because of the challenges of fast-paced New York City, such as commuting on the subway, hailing cabs and traversing crowded streets.

Jason Perez with "Little Women: NY" co-stars Lila Call and Dawn Lang (Photo by Zach Dilgard)

Jason Perez with “Little Women: NY” co-stars Lila Call and Dawn Lang (Photo by Zach Dilgard)

“New York in itself is an animal and to survive you need to have skills,” Perez said.

The show will also look at some of Perez’s personal struggles — a sensitive issue he discusses with his conservative family while living at home and his difficulties in finding the right person to settle down with.

“We may be small but we have emotions like everyone else, we have ambitions like everyone,” he said. “Just because we look different doesn’t mean we are out of the loop.”

“Little Women: NY” airs Wednesdays at 10 p.m. on Lifetime. 


Geraldo Rivera makes Life’s WORC his cause on ‘Celebrity Apprentice’

By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of Victoria Schneps

As NBC’s latest installment of “Celebrity Apprentice” kicked off on Sunday, Jan. 4, the stars appeared to be lining up in favor of local nonprofit Life’s WORC.

Established 44 years ago by The Queens Courier newspaper publisher Victoria Schneps with help from broadcast journalist icon Geraldo Rivera, Life’s WORC provides services to some 1,400 people with developmental disabilities in eastern Queens, Nassau County and western Suffolk. The agency is based in Garden City.

Geraldo Rivera, known for his advocacy of the developmentally disabled community from the time when he worked as an investigative reporter at WABC-TV Channel 7, has demonstrated loyal, steadfast support for Life’s WORC throughout his career.

“Geraldo attends many of the organization’s fundraisers including an annual golf tournament he personally spearheads. He never fails to talk up the agency and impress upon many of the movers and shakers he encounters the importance of Life’s WORC,” said Janet Koch, the agency’s executive director. “We were so gratified when we discovered that Geraldo had designated Life’s WORC as his beneficiary in host Donald Trump’s famous challenge. Everyone associated with Life’s WORC is excited by the prospects here because this show is known for providing millions of dollars in contributions to a number of nonprofit organizations.”

Each celebrity contestant has the opportunity to compete for the charitable organization they choose. Geraldo’s passion for Life’s WORC was on full display as he led all of the celebrities by generating more contributions through his pie store enterprise. Vortex, the entrepreneur project created by the male team, raised $185,322 on the first night of the show. Therefore, Geraldo has earned $280,000 for Life’s WORC so far, and who knows how much more Geraldo will raise in the upcoming episodes!

Life’s WORC founder and board member Victoria Schneps urges everyone in the developmentally disabled and autistic communities to watch future installments of “Celebrity Apprentice.”

“Since Geraldo is here for us once again, we need to rally our spirit for our hero by posting expressions of gratitude and comments to encourage him through the show’s website,” Schneps said.

This $280,000 windfall based on Geraldo’s leadership comes at a key period for the agency, according to Janet Koch. “This enables Life’s WORC to gain some breathing room in its budgeting and finances since New York State has been economizing, reducing funds available in the developmental disabilities field.”


Queens native has TV plans for Naked Catering business

| ctumola@queenscourier.com

Photos by Pamela Young

A Queens native is ready to bare it all on television in the hopes of taking his unique catering business to the next level.

Pieps LeBreton (“Chef Pieps” as he likes to be called), is the owner of Naked Catering, a company that combines gourmet food with sexy servers, who are usually decked out in body paint.

Chef Pieps founded Naked Catering in Los Angeles in 2003, after graduating from Le Cordon Bleu in 2000.

He left Queens, where he mainly lived in Flushing, in 1985, around the age of 25, to go to Hollywood and pursue a career as a producer. For about 15 years he worked on everything from music videos to commercials and television shows, but “things got a little tiresome,” and he decided to go back to a passion he had since childhood.

“I’ve cooked all my life,” said Chef Pieps, adding that his father always said he should be a professional cook.

Chef Pieps

After doing on-the-set catering and private cooking, Chef Pieps started thinking about an idea of sexily-clad servers, but wasn’t truly inspired until he saw actress Demi Moore body painted in a magazine. He then thought of painting females servers in sexy tuxes.

He came up with a name as bold as the idea — “Naked Catering” — and in six months launched his business.

“I was ahead of my time … some people thought it was pornographic,” he said.
Chef Pieps said some people were squeamish about the concept, “but when people saw it, it was a wow factor.”

Women are as fascinated with the concept as men, and want to hire his catering service for their husbands’ birthdays, anniversaries; he even has done a wedding.

Naked Catering also has male servers, and women who wear sexy outfits, not just body paint, depending on the type of party the customer wants.

“You’d be surprised, a lot of girls who you wouldn’t think would want to do it, want to do it,” said Chef Pieps, who’s had an attorney, teacher and school bus driver work as body-painted servers.

Though he says his catering service has been a success on the West Coast, and his servers were even featured on E!’s “12 Sexiest Hollywood Jobs,” Chef Pieps is looking to bring it to the next level.

He’s currently trying to launch his business on the East Coast, first in Florida, and soon in New York City.

Chef Pieps is also shopping around a reality TV show that he describes as “Hell’s Kitchen meets Bad Girls” that will document his catering business.

He has also shot 13 episodes of a cooking/talk show program that is set to air in Europe. Chef Pieps calls himself a “Chef Extraordinaire,” and the show, which has plans to also air in the U.S., will showcase other similar chefs.

He explains it as a cook who takes any type of food and gives it a new kind of flavor.

“[A ‘Chef Extraordinaire’] is not afraid to try something different and attack it at a different level.”




This Morning’s Headlines

| jlane@queenscourier.com

Graphic by Jay Lane

Mets Owners Sell Team Shares Following $162M Settlement With Madoff Victims’ Trustee

Mets owners Fred Wilpon and Saul Katz last week sold 12 minority stakes in the troubled franchise worth $240 million, using the proceeds to pay off Major League Baseball and reduce the team’s crippling debt, The Post has learned. With the moves, the team now has breathing room with its lenders and — combined with yesterday’s Picard settlement — appears to have saved the franchise. Read More: NY1


Mets owners could actually make money in Madoff settlement

It’s the biggest win for the Mets since 1986 — but a huge letdown for the fans. The team’s stingy owners will remain at the helm after striking a sweetheart settlement with the lawyer tasked with recouping billions from Bernie Madoff’s Ponzi scheme — and the deal actually casts them as victims of the fraud. The deal heads off a risky jury trial, where a loss could have cost owners Fred Wilpon and Saul Katz up to $383 million and control of the franchise. Read More: New York Post


Rangers edge Devils, clinch playoff spot in East

Brandon Dubinsky scored shortly after a fight-filled opening faceoff, and the Rangers became the first Eastern Conference team to earn a playoff spot by beating the New Jersey Devils 4-2 on Monday night. Three fights broke out at the outset and that seemed to jump-start the Rangers, who had lost two straight and five of seven as their once commanding lead in the East dwindled to almost nothing. Read More: New York Post


Trayvon Martin shooting: Feds to investigate killing of unarmed black teen by Florida neighborhood watch captain

The growing national attention – and outcry – over the case of an unarmed black teen in Florida who was fatally shot by a neighborhood watch captain has culminated with the federal government’s announcement that it will launch an investigation. The announcement late Monday by the Justice Department followed a day of protests calling for the arrest of George Zimmerman, 28, who claims he shot 17-year-old Trayvon Martin last month in self-defense during a confrontation in a gated community. Read More: Daily News


Cops nab burglary suspect — but hunt for ‘Vaseline Bandit’ continues

Police who were already hunting for a burglar who has brazenly pulled off 14 apartment break-ins in Upper Manhattan — using Vaseline to block door peepholes — captured another apartment thief re-handed, casually watching TV, in the middle of a heist tonight. But law enforcement sources said the 20-something perp is not the so-called Vaseline Bandit, who is in his 50s. Read More: New York Post


Government may make it easier for airlines to allow passengers to use personal electronic devices during takeoffs and landings

The government is taking a tentative step toward making it easier for airlines to allow passengers to use personal electronic devices such as tablets, e-readers and music players during takeoffs and landings. The Federal Aviation Administration said Monday it is “exploring ways to bring together all of the key stakeholders involved” – including airlines, aircraft manufacturers, consumer electronics makers, and flight attendant unions – to discuss whether there are practical ways to test devices to see if they are safe for passengers to use during critical phases of flight. Read More: Daily News


Peyton Manning finalizing contract with Broncos

All that’s needed is Peyton Manning’s autograph. After being pursued by teams around the NFL, the QB with four MVP awards is headed to the land of John Elway and Tim Tebow, agreeing to a contract with Denver that could make the Broncos an instant Super Bowl contender. It could also send one of the NFL’s most intriguing young players packing. So much for Tebowmania. Manning called Elway on Monday morning and told the Broncos executive that he had chosen Denver over the Tennessee Titans and San Francisco 49ers in the wildest free-agent chase of the offseason. Read More: Yahoo Sports


3 wounded in Harlem shooting

A gunman shot three men across from a Harlem playground this afternoon, police said. The unknown assailant blasted his victims in front of a deli across from the St. Nicholas Playground on West 129th Street and St. Nicholas Avenue about 2:30 p.m., cops said. A 30-year-old man was wounded in the left hand and leg, a 25-year-old was shot in the left leg, and a 23-year-old was wounded in the butt, authorities said. Read More: New York Post


NYPD Ups Security In Wake Of Jewish School Shooting In France

The NYPD yesterday deployed hundreds of cops to synagogues and Jewish neighborhoods citywide after a gunman fatally shot three kids and a rabbi at a Jewish school in France. “Obviously, we’re concerned about what happened in Toulouse,” Police Commissioner Ray Kelly said of the shooting. Read More: NY1


Jail guard shot

An off-duty Rikers correction officer was shot by her boyfriend last night outside a Queens diner, police sources said. The woman was hit in the stomach near the USA Diner on Merrick Boulevard in Laurelton at 10:50 p.m., cops said. The shooter fled. It wasn’t immediately clear what sparked the fight. Read More: New York Post


‘Gangster’ sought in groom slay

They picked the wrong guy to push around. The Staten Island restaurant worker reportedly thrown to the ground by groom-to-be Anthony Lacertosa and his boozing buddies was purported Albanian gangster Redinel Dervishaj, who then allegedly killed Lacertosa with a butcher knife. Investigators believe Dervishaj, 35, has since fled the city, a law-enforcement source said. Read More: New York Post


‘Mad Men’ star Jon Hamm sticks to his guns in calling Kim Kardashian an ‘idiot’

Square-jawed “Mad Men” actor Jon Hamm is sick of your stupid shtick. Channeling his straight-shooting character Don Draper,  Hamm put Kim Kardashian in her place Monday, dissing the curvaceous celebutard yet again. NBC “Today” show host Matt Lauer asked the AMC retro-series actor to clarify the earlier comments he made to Elle UK about Kardashian being a famous-for-being-famous “idiot,” which the reality starlet called “careless.” Read More: Daily News