What is “Gypsy Sisters”?

Longtime fans of “My Big Fat American Gypsy Wedding” (“MBFAGW”) fondly remember its first spin-off show, “Gypsy Sisters”, which chronicled the haphazard lives of the Stanleys and their extended family members. With a total of 32 episodes over four seasons, “Gypsy Sisters” premiered in February 2013 and allowed thousands of viewers to witness how Romanichal women lived.

Negative think pieces, bad publicity, and a horrifying animal cruelty case linked to a main cast member forced the show to an end, although the official excuse given was low ratings. For the majority, “Gypsy Sisters” was their go-to guilty pleasure show; for Romanichal people, the Stanleys were impostors who were playing up to harmful stereotypes. Today, we’ll discover the truth about “Gypsy Sisters”.

Cast Members

The star of “Gypsy Sisters” was Nettie Stanley, a West Virginia native born in July 1974 and mother of nine children. With her bleached blonde locks and signature spray tan, she was TV’s most glamorous mother hen with a strong personality to match. Nettie, who was known for wearing pajamas outdoors and getting into bust-ups during family events, was the rock of the clan and supported her three younger sisters and 12 grandchildren throughout their numerous rough patches in life. When her stepson, Rocky, tragically died of stab wounds when leaving a basketball game, Nettie stepped away from the world of reality TV, and made all her social media accounts private.

Nettie’s younger sisters are Dovie, Mellie and JoAnn. In the show’s third season, the matriarch and her husband, Huey Stanley, renewed their wedding vows to celebrate their tenth anniversary. Despite Nettie’s strong and feisty personality, she was also a responsible individual, and helped her mother, Lottie Mae, raise the rest of her numerous brood.

Lottie Mae’s criminal activities raised a few eyebrows amongst viewers of “Gypsy Sisters”. The great-grandmother was convicted of bank fraud in the early 2000s, and sentenced to nine years in prison a few years later for a separate offence – namely, removing her son and grandson from foster care. Lottie Mae was arrested in a Madison Heights motel along with her husband; thankfully, she has been a model citizen since completing her sentence.

Nettie’s children are Nukie, Kat, Chasitie, Destiny, Huey Jr., Albert, Heath, Sheila and Dallas. They were born to three different fathers, one of them being Huey. Media sources claim that she has up to twenty grandchildren, eight more than when the show first aired. Nettie is highly involved in their upbringing, and prides herself on putting family first.

Next up is Mellie Stanley, the youngest sister and self-described black sheep of the clan. Her children – Richard Joel, Brandy’Wyne Leveniya, Divinity Rose, and Serenity Faye – were born within seven years and all had different fathers. The public was shocked to learn that Mellie became pregnant with Richard Joel after drinking too much; in fact, the West Virginia native wasn’t sure if going ahead with the pregnancy was the right decision.

Immmmmmmmm backkkkkkkkkkkkk! Hold on tight! It’s gonna be a bumpy ride!

Posted by Mellie Stanley on Tuesday, January 28, 2020

As it happens, Mellie and Richard Joel’s father divorced less than a week after tying the knot, and the former TV star isn’t believed to be on good terms with any of her children’s fathers. After giving birth to Serenity Faye, the rambunctious Stanley seems to have calmed down slightly, and is allegedly taking precautions to avoid further unplanned pregnancies.

Before giving birth to Richard Joel, Mellie was a nightclub stripper; she hoped that the arrival of her first son would help her mature and grow as an individual. Nevertheless, she still indulged in numerous vices, and wasn’t averse to drinking, cursing, and fighting both on- and off-screen. Shortly after the cancellation of “Gypsy Sisters”, Mellie and her then-husband were convicted of coupon fraud scam, and she was sentenced to five years on probation in 2019; one of the conditions was that she pass her General Education Development Test (G.E.D). Mellie will hopefully be off probation in 2024.

JoAnn Wells, who was introduced to the audience as an aspiring nurse with a gentle and unassuming personality, was also arrested for coupon scamming in the early 2010s. She was sentenced to pay Target almost $15,000 in 2014, and was also placed on supervised probation for two years. To carry out her elaborate scheme, Jo befriended a Target cashier, and successfully scammed the supermarket out of $14,000 before being busted.

One of the main storylines in season three was the acrimonious divorce between JoAnn and her partner at the time, Belcher. Despite a brief reconciliation, the differences between them were too great, and they soon parted ways again. JoAnn and Mellie’s love lives were startingly similar, although JoAnn avoided having children with every man she was involved with.

As of 2022, JoAnn is believed to be in a serious relationship, but with an anonymous man. She’s shown no desire to return to reality TV, and has either deleted her social media profiles or made them private. She and Belcher share two children who are being kept out of the spotlight for now.

Dovie Carter is the fourth Stanley sister and family mediator. The most enigmatic sibling, she was a minor character on the show, only appearing a few times in its last season. The dark-haired beauty keeps her private life under wraps, so much so that there’s no available information regarding her relationship status, or possible children.

Annie Malone and Kayla Williams are two siblings who were extended family members of the Stanleys. Annie was no stranger to reality TV, and made her small-screen debut in an episode of “MBFAGW” in which she and her first cousin, James, tied the knot. The short-lived marriage ended for unknown reasons, and James moved on and formed a family with Dallas, Nettie’s daughter and Annie’s cousin. A rather unsavory character, Annie was charged with several felonies, amongst them exploitation of an elderly person, in 2017.

Meanwhile, the marriage between Kayla Williams and Richard lasted almost twenty years. Her next two weddings – and divorces – happened in quick succession; although Richard took his time in moving on, he already shared two sons with James’s sister, Danielle Malone. Viewers found it understandably challenging to keep up with the vast Stanley-Malone-Williams family tree, as almost everyone was related either by blood or marriage.

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These days, Kayla’s five children – Richard, Danielle, Lexi, George, and Sissy – are all grown and starting their own families. Meanwhile, Kayla is an aspiring lifestyle influencer who uploads cooking and beauty videos onto her YouTube channel; she’s also helping to raise her various grandchildren, when not busy providing content for her thousands of subscribers.

Kayla and Annie had one brother named Gus whose wife was Laura Johnston. The couple shared three daughters named Bailey, Hailey and Savannah. Laura rarely appeared on the show, but was seen at a few family functions; reliable sources confirm that she and Gus are still together.

Another minor character is Sheena Small, who further complicated the family trees by sharing four children with Henry Stanley, who happened to be Nettie and Mellie’s brother… and her first cousin. Sheena and Henry’s children were Shirley, Shakira, Shania, and Frankie; the couple made sparse appearances in the show, and weren’t given any of their own storylines.

Next up is Dallas Nichole Williams, one of Nettie’s eldest children and a mother of six who also had an unfortunate love life, being married at least twice. Her children were named London, Richard, Demi, Aaron, Huey and Archie and were born to different fathers who were rarely mentioned in “Gypsy Sisters”. As mentioned earlier, her ex-partner James Malone married Annie, Dallas’s cousin, but Dallas somehow overlooked that relationship, and took him back in late 2016, which didn’t sit well with Annie at all. Instead of going back to Annie when he and Dallas broke up yet again, James moved on and looked for love outside of the family.

Nettie “Nuckie” Williams is the last cast member and was vilified even more than Mellie Stanley, for her poor mothering skills. Sparking controversy after ditching her partner, Pookie, and their son to see the world with her drug addict boyfriend, Nettie was somehow convinced to return to her family when Pookie and his wife at the time found her and brought her back to West Virginia. Two months later, Pookie divorced his then-wife and went back to Nettie; they would have two daughters together named Delilah Lee and Ivory, to complete their dysfunctional family unit.

The Truth

For a time, dwindling ratings and negative publicity were cited as the reasons for the cancellation of “Gypsy Sisters”, however, the true motive was far more sinister. In July 2015, Mellie Stanley and her then-husband Randall Scott Vuncannon were embroiled in a sickening animal cruelty case, the details of which were so gruesome that advertisers decided to stop sponsoring the reality series. The network, realizing that the show would be far less profitable without sponsors, unceremoniously cancelled “Gypsy Sisters”, and moved on to presumably bigger and better things.

Reports may vary, but the official story is that Mellie and Randall were arguing over rent when he suddenly picked up the TV star’s small pet dog and threw her across the kitchen with such force as to kill her instantly. After being alerted, police officers found Mellie bruised and barely able to move in the street outside her home, which she and her children shared with Randall.

Randall was promptly arrested and hit with a felony animal cruelty charge; since then he’s faded into obscurity, and hasn’t been heard of or seen in years. There was a resounding lack of sympathy towards Mellie in the aftermath of the scandal, as her parenting skills were questioned and criticized, especially the fact that she’d married a violent individual and allowed him to live with her minor children after a relatively brief courting stage. It remains unclear if Mellie wishes to return to TV or not, but in any case, no self-respecting network has agreed to give her or her sisters a platform, since “Gypsy Sisters” was canned.

Similar Shows

Although the popularity of gypsy shows has plummeted around the world, they were all the rage in the mid-2010s, and have spawned quite a few pseudo-celebs. The most well-known reality series in the niche genre is, obviously, “MBFAGW”, which premiered on TLC in early 2012.

However, “MBFAGW” was plagued by controversies for years, leading to its cancellation in 2016. Although we can generally assume that much of reality TV is carefully planned out and scripted before the cameras start rolling, it turns out that the show in question was so fake that many of the weddings weren’t even legal.

Priscilla Kelly, who participated in the show’s first season, blew the lid off the sensational story in a since-deleted Facebook post, which was quoted by various news outlets. According to Priscilla, the show’s producers were so interested in pushing narratives that they hired actors and faked many of the weddings. Priscilla said: “Basically [producers] told me if I would just get married it didn’t matter who it was with, it didn’t have to be legal just so they had something to put on TV… I’m so ashamed that I even did the show.”

“[Producers are] offering people to marry but without even paperwork, just to have something to put on the show,” Priscilla added. Given that her post was shared thousands of times and made headlines, fans of the show began asking other participants to post their marriage licenses as proof. Priscilla also lambasted the show’s producers, for their inaccurate depiction of Romani culture.

Things get even worse, however, as Priscilla claimed that many participants weren’t travelers or Romani. One commenter claimed that she had been contacted by the show’s production team despite being Italian and having nothing to do with the ethnic group the series was supposedly focused on. Many “traditions”, such as the annual gypsy ball that was discussed and depicted on the show, were also made up for the sake of entertainment.

We could discuss Priscilla’s claims all day – apparently, she was also told to say she lived in a trailer, despite it being untrue – but some netizens think that the integrity of Romani and traveler people who would willingly participate in such an outrageously fabricated show must also be questioned. As it happens, there’s no possibility of “MBFAGW” returning to the screen, and similar shows have been cancelled after just a few seasons. For now, it remains to be seen whether gypsy shows will have their big comeback, and relive their glory days or not.

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