For four seasons, the spin-off series from “My Big Fat American Gypsy Wedding” – TLC’s “Gypsy Sisters” – generated a huge buzz, as it featured some of the Romanichal women living in Martinsburg, West Virginia. Viewers were shocked but also highly entertained by the never-ending catfights, relationship troubles, and other dramas in the lives of this supposedly close-knit group. After the show was officially canceled in 2015, avid fans were curious about what these women had been up to, and if there was some truth to the rumor that a reboot was in the offing.
Meet the cast of “Gypsy Sisters”
Nettie was considered the matriarch of the Stanley family; they were many, so taking care of them was like a full-time job, especially when their grandmother, who initially raised some of them, passed away, while her mother, Lottie Mae Stanley, was busy running a con or landing herself in jail. In March 2003, Lottie was featured in “America’s Most Wanted” for bank fraud in 11 states. Since 1997, she had been using various schemes to obtain checking account information of individuals and to manipulate bank tellers into releasing funds, which amounted to $800,000. With all that money, many assumed that her children would have been well-provided for, however, it was said that Lottie had a gambling problem, so she would head to the nearest casino as soon as the money was in her hands.
Investigators had been tracking Lottie for six years, and when a couple of runaways who were with her and her husband, Aaron Telke, were caught with stolen checks, their arrest led to her capture in July 2003. The authorities didn’t have enough evidence to hold Aaron and released him. Lottie pleaded guilty to the charges and was imprisoned for nine years in 2004. Her criminal history dated back to when she was in her teens in 1969, which was the first time she went to jail. Over the years, she had an arrest record that included charges of cashing out fraudulent checks, theft by deception, and forgery.
It was bad enough growing up with a mother who repeatedly committed offences, but what was even worse was that she did it with her kids aged five, eight and 13 in tow, to confuse or gain the trust of her intended victims. The one in her teens was said to be Mellie, who had wads of money amounting to thousands of dollars in her pockets when the local police and federal agents raided their home.
Mellie was the self-proclaimed black sheep of the family for doing everything that she should not have been doing – Dovie and JoAnn, also Lottie’s daughters, were the peacemakers. Featured in the series were their first cousins, Kayla and Annie, who were the children of Lottie Mae’s sister, Jettie Matthews. Laura Johnston was married to their brother, Gus, so they were one big family related by blood or marriage, growing up more like sisters than cousins.
“Gypsy Sisters” reality TV series
The explosive fight that started it all
TLC’s “My Big Fat American Gypsy Wedding” premiered in 2012, and delved into the world of gypsies, particularly their marriage customs. What drew the attention of most viewers were the over-the-top wedding dresses, as they had huge skirts, sparkles, LED fairy lights, risqué top or front, and fantastical themes. Wearing those dresses often posed a logistical challenge for the brides to move around. However, it was the Stanley women who stole the show for their outrageous behavior.
Nettie was at odds with her son Heath’s girlfriend, Alyssa, over something that the latter had been saying behind her back, regarding the men she had been with throughout her life. She was so mad that she threw Alyssa and her son out of her house, and refused to attend their wedding. Mellie went with the intention of causing trouble, and ‘beat’ Alyssa, but Heath pleaded with her not to ruin his wedding. After the ceremony, the bride’s cousin and bridesmaid, Diamond, was waiting outside the courthouse to confront Mellie, as she’d overheard the latter’s threats toward Alyssa. Diamond tackled Mellie to the ground and Mellie fought back, punching and scratching; both of them ended up bloodied and with bruises. The newlyweds fled before the cops arrived to break up the fight. Unfortunately, their marriage only lasted a month.
The video clip of this scene went viral, and led to the airing of the “Stanley Sisters” special. With so much drama going on in their family and relationships, the producers couldn’t pass up the chance to continue chronicling their lives in the TV series “Gypsy Sisters,” which premiered in 2013. Watching their stories unfold was shocking for some, but admirable for others, as they lived unrestrained by rules or norms. They absolutely had no filter in expressing their thoughts and feelings, but then easily took offense, at times over something simple or silly. Fighting seemed to be a natural progression from disagreements or when something didn’t sit well with them. Gypsies were often described as free-spirited, but these women had perhaps taken things a bit too far.
What happened to the Gypsy sisters?
The TV series was officially canceled in 2015 due to low ratings. However, it didn’t stop fans from speculating on what the real reason might have been why the network would pull the plug on what was a much-talked-about show. Some believed it was done to avoid another scandal, in light of what happened to reality TV star Josh Duggar of “19 Kids and Counting.”
In July 2015, the police were called at around four in the afternoon for a domestic dispute between Mellie and her rumored husband, Scott Vuncannon, as someone had seen him beating her up outside his home. When the police officers arrived, Scott was gone, and an emotional Mellie was crying, saying that he’d killed her dog. The couple was having a heated argument over rent money, and Scott vented his frustration and anger toward the puppy, throwing it against the wall. He was later arrested and charged with ‘felony count of animal cruelty causing death,’ but no charges were filed against him for hurting Mellie. She gave conflicting stories on her Facebook page, as she first denied then confirmed the reports, only to say in the end that it was an accident.
It was said that TLC clarified matters, that the cancelation happened as they ‘simply felt it was time to move on.’ Perhaps it was just a coincidence that this incident with the puppy happened just two weeks before the show was axed.
Some said that the Stanley women should have been every producer’s dream to cast in a reality show, as they would never run out of content, and didn’t need to create scenarios to make the narrative more entertaining, as the gypsy sisters did that themselves, having such interesting personalities. However, others thought that they would have been more trouble than they were worth, because they were quite violent, and their arguments often ended in a brawl.
Since the last episode was aired, rumors of a reboot kept popping up from time to time, perhaps because the show had developed a cult following and they wanted to see more of the craziness of the Stanley sisters. Here’s what happened to them, and what’s keeping them busy in 2022.
From the get-go, viewers could easily see that she was the wild one in the family, from working as a stripper in a club, to fighting at the drop of a hat. Nettie had once said that Mellie was a difficult person, and there would be drama wherever she went. She was bad enough when sober, but so much worse when she was drunk.
She along with her then-husband George Lee Jr. was arrested in December 2017, for using fake coupons when shopping in Babies “R” Us and Toys “R” Us stores, which gained them $18,000 worth of merchandise. It was reported that Mellie presented these coupons with modified bar codes via her phone, and used them to buy items and gift cards worth thousands of dollars, repeating the ruse in multiple states. She was said to have been identified based on footage from surveillance cameras, and Mellie was eventually arrested in Louisiana on a warrant issued in Kentucky, charged with theft by deception, and criminal possession of forged instrument in the second degree. She was released on bail, but was arrested again in March 2018 in Indiana, on an active warrant from Tennessee for similar crimes. Reportedly, Mellie was part of an organized theft ring that created counterfeit coupons used illegally to make purchases.
She pleaded guilty to two felony charges, and was sentenced to five years of probation in June 2019. The terms of her probation that would keep her out of jail included avoiding alcohol and drugs, not owning a firearm, earning her GED, and repaying what she owed to the stores.
Mellie had no luck with men, as finding the right one was proving to be difficult. Keeping up with the men she married and men she had children with posed a bit of a challenge. She married young at 17, but her husband beat her up. Her second husband when she was 19 did the same thing, causing her to miscarry. In March 2020, it was reported that Mellie gave birth to her fourth child, Serenity Faye, with MJ West the father. She had custody of her eldest, Richie, born in 2013 with ex-husband Robbie York, as well as Divinity Rose born in 2016 with ex-husband George Lee Jr. Her daughter Brandy, born in 2015 with Nik Picolo, was in the custody of the grandparents on Nik’s side.
Not much has been heard from Mellie via her social media accounts since 2021; her most recent posts were all about her kids, and being available in the Cameo app. In what was said to be the official Instagram account of “Gypsy Sisters,” a video clip was posted in June 2022 of Mellie saying that she regretted doing the show, as it was ‘nothing but drama’ that made her out to be someone she wasn’t, and didn’t want to be.
— Mellie Stanley (@melliestanley89) November 20, 2021
JoAnn was arrested in July 2014, for scamming thousands of dollars out of the Target branch in Cary, North Carolina. She allegedly befriended two cashiers of the department store, and conspired with them to cash in gift cards, run fake barcodes on items, and force expired coupons within a period of 10 days in December 2013. The total amount swindled was $14,700 – the cashiers claimed that JoAnn would share the profits with them. A warrant for her arrest was issued by the Cary Police Department.
JoAnn protested her innocence, and took to Facebook to air her side, as she wrote, ‘I had managers check and accept my coupons, not my problem they accepted them. I used an app called Shop Kick and Target mobile app!’ She further said that she turned herself in because she had nothing to hide, and was released on bail. Eventually, she pleaded guilty to ‘obtaining property under false pretenses and felony conspiracy,’ and was sentenced to two years probation, that included re-embursing Target.
She had two kids, and had since remarried after her divorce from Belcher, her husband of more than a decade.
She was reportedly arrested in Halifax County, North Carolina, and charged in January 2017 with several felonies, including exploitation of an elderly’s trust, forgery of instruments (pertaining to checks), and conspiracy to obtain property under false pretenses. According to reports, Annie along with her cousin, Jeanette “Jett” Small, and Jett’s boyfriend, Dick Cooper, did yard work for the elderly. As the resident of Halifax County was paying them using a check, she allowed them to fill out the amount, and they overcharged her for almost $6,000. Annie then reportedly went on a shopping spree in New York, and bought herself Armani sunglasses and a Louis Vuitton bag, which she posted on her social media account. She was arrested soon after that, but released on bail.
The 31-year-old Annie was in a relationship with 19-year-old Lushy Cooper, who was incarcerated in a New York City jail, and was awaiting his release so that they could marry. Lushy was the brother of Dick and Douglas, who were dating Annie’s sister, Kayla Williams. At that time, Annie was yet to finalize her divorce from Jay, who was the ex-husband of her cousin, Dallas. She was also previously married to her own cousin Josh. She had five children, but it was not known who their fathers were.
— Gypsy Sisters Annie (@AnnieJohnston12) January 20, 2015
In 2014, after calling it quits with Richard, her husband of 17 years, Kayla had the time of her life, and enjoyed being single. She had two more marriages that didn’t work out, before she tied the knot with Benny Small in 2018. However, it wasn’t known if they were still together, as it had been a while since she posted about him on social media. Based on her Instagram posts, she was proud of her children and grandchildren. She also kept herself busy with her Cameo app, Instagram endorsements, custom-designed tumblers, cell phone cases, and the clothing line Gypsylicious by Kayla.
Her relationship status was a bit confusing, as she posted in March about loving the single life for a long time, and then in May 2022, she wrote about her husband’s birthday, although it was not known whom she was referring to. By June, she posted about living a drama-free life and then she greeted herself, her sister, and ‘all the daddies that kept it real’ on Father’s day.
She was married thrice, the last being with Huey, whom she had a renewal of vows with after 10 years; it was aired in 2014 during the season three finale of “Gypsy Sisters.”
Most of her daughters were in tumultuous relationships. A classic example was Dallas, her eldest, who was in a relationship with Jay but who later left her after seven years, and after their first child was born, to marry her aunt Annie. They had two more children together, as Jay would go back and forth between the two women. Jay later left Annie to marry Dallas; Nettie once had to break up a huge fight between both camps.
Nettie had nine kids, but her daughter Destiny passed away when still a baby. Her Instagram was filled with posts about her children, grandchildren, and other family members. If one would only base it on her social media posts, it would seem that everything was great in her life with Huey. Although her last post with him was in 2020, there were no cryptic messages or any other indication that her marriage was on the rocks. She shared via Instagram about having a new home in 2021. It appeared that all was well with her mother Lottie Mae after everything that happened, as she posted the latter’s photo in July 2022.
So is all that clear!? Watching “Gypsy Sisters” was entertaining, whether one approved of the way they lived their lives or not. For some, keeping up with the men they were in a relationship with, or the troubles they were involved in, was a bit difficult. What puzzled most, however, was how these women claimed to be close and love each other, but would easily get into a brawl over a man or some perceived insult. ‘We fight constantly here. I mean not just arguing, I mean fist-fighting. We fight but we love more,’ Nettie had said.