For Ronnie, his destiny—and his image—seemed inextricably tied up with Sammi for the majority of the time he spent GTL-ing on Jersey Shore, and old habits were hard to break, both for him and the MTV show’s devoted fandom, which mourned what seemed to be the real end of their relationship in 2016.
Over the past year, however, despite his return to the pack with The Situation, Vinny, Snooki, JWoww, Deena and Pauly D, Ronnie’s life outside of his MTV-packaged existence has taken center stage, with the 32-year-old becoming a first-time dad to daughter Ariana after breaking up with Ariana’s mother, Jen Harley, in explosive fashion.
Even though he was on one of the most talked-about reality shows ever, it hasn’t always been easy to get a read on Ronnie amid the ups and downs with Sammi, his temper, which has landed him in varying degrees of trouble, and his inevitable angst over his misdeeds during the series’ original run.
Because surely there’s more in there other than volatile but sensitive meathead.
Overseeing the six eventful seasons of the hit show was executive producer SallyAnn Salsano, whom Ronnie has expressed his extreme gratitude for, for essentially helping him shape a career out of just being himself after working for his father in real estate before being discovered by MTV.
“I love her,” Ronnie told The Hollywood Reporter in 2011, when the show was shooting in Italy. “She changed my life for the better. I had nothing; I came from the bottom. SallyAnn is an amazing person, and I know she loves me—I don’t know why, but I know she loves me to death and would do anything to make sure that I succeed.”
Courtesy of StarTraks
“Everything is destroyed of mine,” Sammi lamented afterward. “Everything is broken and ruined.”
At least he spent the night crying for his efforts.
“I miss her and I love her and I definitely regret all the negative s–t I’ve ever done,” Ronnie lamented later in the episode after Sammi said she had to leave the house. “Definitely more now than ever.”
Catching up with THR in March 2012 before heading back to shoot season six, Ronnie said he had moved out to Los Angeles “to try to get into the acting,” he had plans to get Ron Ron Juice (the fruity cocktail he first concocted in season one—while the guys were waiting for the girls get ready to go out—and which restaurant menus and fans were quick to replicate) on store shelves, he had an appearance as a version of himself in The Three Stooges movie that was coming out and he had just been Punk’d by Bam Margera.
Starting in Italy he’d been spending a lot more time with all the ladies in the house, not just Sammi, working to strengthen his friendships with everybody.
Scott Gries/Picture Group for MTV
However, after shooting back-to-back seasons in Italy and New Jersey, he and Sam were released back into their “normal lives, where it’s business and family and it’s not just each other, and it just became overwhelming to control all of it. So, we’re not together right now but we do remain good friends.”
When Jersey Shore signed off for good in December 2012, however, they were again a couple, with plans to move in together (without six housemates).
After Jen visited, Ronnie mused in a May episode about how much he loved her, “’cause she’s so much fun.”
“If you love her then why wouldn’t you just be with her?” Jenni asked him, to which he replied, “Why would I be with somebody when I have so much temptation?”
Jenni pointed out that she managed to be faithful to Roger during her time in the house, and they didn’t have children tying them together, to which Ronnie replied, “I’m not Roger.”
She went on, “I’m trying to save you! I’m trying to be a good friend right now to you! Be a good guy here. F–king hoes isn’t what this is about, it’s about f–king family. Be the person that loves Jen, can’t wait for your baby girl. F–k all these bitches! Say, ‘F-k you. I got a great woman at home.'”
The Situation, for instance, took the opportunity to propose to his girlfriend, Lauren Pesce.
“I think I just miss the feeling of security ’cause that’s what she gave,” he explained to Snooki on the April 26 episode. “It’s so f–king hard to find and I think that’s why I am the way I am…”
To the cameras at a different time, Ronnie said, frankly, “Every man wishes he could be with the love of his life. Being with someone for seven years and then you don’t end up with person? Yeah, it hurts.”
Despite leaving Jersey Shore together with the best intentions, he and Sammi revealed in August 2014 they had broken up again, with Ronnie telling People, “We were drifting apart and not really spending any time together. I still care about her…She’s a great girl, but we were growing distant. It was for the best.”
“I wish him nothing but the best,” Sammi, who had moved back to New Jersey, told E! News. “Right now, I’m focused on myself.”
He probably shouldn’t have cheated on her, then.
A source told E! News in March 2016 that Ronnie and Sammi were cautiously dating again, but by the end of that year Ronnie was dating Dash Dolls star Malika Haqq, whom he met while both were on E!’s Famously Single. That relationship lasted for just a few months.
But doing Famously Single, Ronnie explained to TooFab a year ago, was a chance to truly put his relationship with Sammi behind him.
“It definitely helped me realize what I want and what I don’t want,” he said, “and that certain things that I was looking for that I realize, you know…it’s not that I have to settle, but I have to lower my bar a little bit, you know. And it’s like, I’m not perfect, so I can’t expect the person that I’m with to be perfect…it’d kinda be a double standard, it’s not gonna work, and that was always my thing. Like, ‘you have to be this, this, this and this,’ but at the same time I’m not ‘this, this or this.’ You really can’t do that.”
The checklist “got a little shorter, and I’m a little bit more lenient.”
Ariana was born on April 3 (after all the Family Vacation drama had been shot but two days before it would start to unfold for the world to see on MTV), and two weeks later Ronnie got emotional on Instagram, writing, “So excited to be a #Father. Words can’t describe the feeling. You live your life not ever really knowing the meaning of true love until you have a child. True unconditional love. You love your Significant other, you love your family. I have to say I understand when everyone said you’ll understand ” when you have a child of your own or when you become a parent” I know I have still tons to learn but im excited for this new journey & chapter In MyLife with my beautiful girlfriend & my Daughter #ArianaSkyMagro.”
“#Facts,” he tagged the post.
Jen fired back on her story with, “Can’t turn a coke head into a father!”
The exchange continued and, though Ronnie did publicly and privately apologize, their relationship didn’t survive it.
Yet at the same time, despite the toxicity, Ronnie does seem to be settling into fatherhood and relishing his new role.
“Karma’s a bitch” is the message JWoww says she texted to Ronnie when she found out they were having a girl.” She told Us Weekly, “I was like, “Remember all those girls? The hearts you broke? Now you’re gonna try and make sure that your daughter doesn’t have the same thing happen to her.'”
Perhaps that was what all his bro-ness was leading up to all along—insider knowledge of just what d-bag guys are capable of, in order to better protect his own little girl.