Snooki & Nico Tortorella's Tattoo Reality Show Is TV’s Biggest Emotional Roller Coaster

Photo: Slaven Vlasic/Getty Images.
“We’re really highly emotional. We cried as much as the clients did,” Nico Tortorella said during a visit to Refinery29’s New York City office in between bites of his lunch. Nicole “Snooki” Polizzi, Tortorella’s brand new co-star, agreed while munching on a salad, saying, “We cried every episode.”
The newly-minted, unexpected TV duo is talking about their upcoming MTV reality show, How Far Is Tattoo Far?, the American adaptation of a cult-favorite U.K. series. Together, the tattoo-loving Jersey Shore breakout and Younger star host the series, which premieres Thursday, October 11. It’s no surprise Tattoo was an emotional set for both Snooki and Tortorella when you learn in full what the series is about: over the course of an episode, various pairs of people (couples, friends, relatives and even exes) appear to get inked. In a television world populated by Ink Master and Black Ink Crew, such a premise sounds pretty tame, right? Wrong.
The trick of How Far Is Tattoo Far? is how the tattoo-getting is planned: the individual members of each pair decides what ink the other person will receive. So, each person in charge of the size, design, and placement of their loved one’s ink, and vice versa. That means everyone involved is getting a permanent tattoo on their body — and it’s completely up to someone else. To make sure all are surprised by the end result, “clients,” as Polizzi and Tortorella refer to their contestants, wear black-out goggles that completely cover their eyes.
Everyone involved, Tattoo’s famous hosts included, sees the finished product for the first time together in an always dramatic unveiling. It’s a terrifying moment (“I thought everyone was fucking crazy to come on the show,” joked the always unfiltered Snooki) but a beautiful one — this is the ultimate form of blind faith in another person.
“It was so much emotion. It would be like so happy and beautiful to like, ‘Oh my God, how could they do that to each other?’” Polizzi recalled of filming the series, which took about two weeks. “It was like a roller coaster of emotions.”
Despite all the emotions on set, Tortorella, who has dedicated much of their time to sex and body positivity, made sure to “put a positive spin on every single tattoo” featured on the series. “So much of the work I do is about celebrating life and humanity and identity and expression,” Tortorella said. “The classic [moment] of the original Tattoo, the UK version, is a “Slut” stamp on a girl’s back. So I was like, ‘I am not going to be part of a show that is degrading women anywhere in the United States right now. We’re just not doing that.’”
Although MTV’s version never went as far as its British counterpart, Snooki did admit there was one piece of mysterious ink that created some “WTF” feels between the hosts. “I showed up the next day with crystals and palo santo, [a spiritual wood going back to the Incas], and I was like, ‘We gotta clear this entire space out.” As was the case many times during the conversation with Polizzi and Tortorella, Snooki continued a thought where her co-host left off, immediately adding, “Nico was cleansing the area. That [reveal] was awful.”
Yet, Tortorella’s relentless positivity helped on one especially stressful day, which viewers will see in Tattoo Far’s premiere. During the segment, a young woman, about 19 or 20 years old according to the MTV hosts, got her first-ever large tattoo. “Homegirl, is freaking out,” Tortorella said, as Polizzi added, “And she was getting it in the worst spot — so sensitive.”
Amid the anxiety of the on-set “freak out,” Tortorella went into the young woman’s tattoo room and offered to perform reiki, a form of alternative medicine based in calming touch, on her. In between tears, and still wearing those Tattoo blinders, the client accepted the kind gesture. “I just put my hands on top of her and her entire body melted into the bed. So much so the director and other people were like, ‘What the fuck just happened?’”
But, Tattoo Far was also a lot of fun to film. During one day of shooting, Snooki The Meatball showed up to work instead of Nicole Polizzi. That means the Jersey Shore mainstay — who sometimes sips on wine or a little bit of vodka during Tattoo filming — was, let’s say, feeling herself. “It started, like, wine on the counter, first thing in the morning,” Tortorella said with a laugh. “I was like, ‘Yes. I have been waiting for this moment my entire life.’ I’m sober from alcohol, so I was living vicariously through this lady. I loved every single moment of it.’”
Or, as Snooki, who has been throwing back shots on MTV for a decade, succinctly announced, “I had a wine day … I warned everyone. I was like, ‘I get one day!’”
Before you knock Snooki for living her best Snooki life on the Tattoo Far set, let her new BFF Nico Tortorella drop a few words of wisdom. “Let’s be clear: Nicole ‘Snooki’ Polizzi is a genius. She knows exactly what she’s doing. She’s arguably one of the greatest performance artists of our generation. Let’s give her the props.”
It seems MTV has already given Polizzi, and Tortorella, props by placing one of its wildest reality shows yet in their very capable hands.
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