Written By | Joshua Habtwold
Starting on Monday, January 7th at 9:00 pm ET/PT, VH1, in collaboration with Big Fish Entertainment (an MGM Company), will premiere its new series, “Cartel Crew.” Set in Miami, FL, it digs deep into the lives of eight descendants of the Cartel life as they navigate adulthood and the effects the legacy has had on their upbringing. Now disconnected from their past, they want to make a name for themselves outside of the drug world, but find that escaping the shadows of their ancestors will come with a price. Money, friendships and love are on the line in this redemption story about life after narcos. Here at IMPRINT, we managed to communicate with Michael Blanco (@michaelcorleoneblanco), the youngest son of Griselda Blanco, and his girlfriend and cast member Marie Ramirez De Arellano (@lil_ms.monroe) and discuss about being on Cartel Crew, their experience in the show so far, the rise and impact of Michael’s fashion brand, Pure Blanco, the legacy of their family and the impact now based on their ventures, and much more.
Both Michael and Marie got into the show from Tatu Baby, a cast member of the show, who reached out to both of them and they were interested in being a part of it. As for experience, Michael mentions how he built up his persona by doing scripted television and Narcos-[based] soap operas. A mentor in the entertainment industry told him about the industry, and it made him interested in getting into American-based, English-speaking television and movie making. Once Michael and Marie became a couple, they’ve been exposed to the public more by public sightings, the strong exposure for the Pure Blanco clothing brand, and much more. That’s when Marie’s public persona is establishing a lot more, and the show became a great opportunity for the couple to be more in the limelight, nationally.
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We also discussed with them about the difference between growing up first-hand surrounded by the Cartel life versus the scripted depictions that we see in television and movies, and Michael mentions how there are optimal conditions throughout the show, but it’s something that would be shown more in the show. There are also similarities, but one thing he points out from those shows and projects is that there is no exposure to the human essence of the human character behind the villain, or the person. As for Marie, shows like Narcos are scripted versions of a different era. Cartel Crew, as she mentions, is a new era and the cast members are the third-generation of that past, which will display what people who are raised in Cartel life are like now.
When discussing their relationship and obstacles, Marie mentions how there are no obstacles but she cannot see Michael as a different person since he’s not a regular person, based on his family past and recognition. That’s what made them relatable since they both share a similar story of growing up, which automatically clicked. Although there are no obstacles between them in the show, there are obstacles based on the life that she had to be with him. As for Michael, they go through big things as a regular couple for many years, and as a couple that works together.
As far as family legacy, Michael mentions how there were things he thought he didn’t want to expose or felt he couldn’t expose. Throughout his lifetime, it’s been a double-edged sword for him, since there were positive and negative aspects during his life. People loved him for what his mother had done for various communities, such as providing homes for three-to-four generations, how his mother was a godmother for certain people, and how his brother Cheeky, saved various lives that were affected. With the good, there comes the bad, and his negative experiences came from people telling him in his face that his mother was a horrible and evil person for what she has done in her lifetime. As for Marie, her father was quite private with his life, but her own story will be explained throughout the show.
During the experience of the show, the impact and fame were much of a leading experience for Marie. From what this means is that it’s never easy since they are still living in reality. As far as the show, she mentions how she had to dive and dissect her life, which was an emotional rollercoaster and the support and strong relationship with Mike helped her very much throughout the series. As for Michael, it brought a surreal moment during the show and it became a weird exposure since people did not understand that he is a product of a celebrity cartel family. What he means is that his mother and brothers are celebrities amongst the narco world, which made him a pre-teen/teenage celebrity due to being surrounded by Narco celebrities and kingpins.
Although he’s not ready due to not receiving backlash or feeling the exposure from what the show is shown as, Michael’s a bit more prepared than Marie, which she has an understanding more now, and what this really is. Michael also feels that he’s bringing a stronger impact on his family name through his business ventures, since Pure Blanco was a brand that he felt on making a big advantage, in terms of what it is and so forth. It’s something that he feels proud of, since he’s displaying his life on public television, he’s living in the legal, hard-working world, and wants his vision and story to be that there is a human connection between the cartel and mob life, which is something the public will vibe with and understand.
When discussing the Pure Blanco brand, Michael mentions how his experience living in Medellin, Morgan Hill, California, New York, and Miami, he was exposed to hip-hop and urban culture and was interested in bringing a criminalistic glam that reminisces the time of his mother through fashion. Although people joked about that idea, he made that idea into a real-life memoir through his connections and the support from his girlfriend.
Fast forward to five to seven years later, Narcos was released and Colombians and Mexicans are telling their stories that were already told by the Italians and people. As for Marie, it’s something that represents women empowerment and the era of female bosses. She tends to explain that Griselda was a boss and a real badass, who took over a male-dominated industry who’s also a mother. Although she has her flaws, she managed to maintain a big fan base and a number of women who look up to her. At the end of the day, she’s providing for her family, she remains a powerful woman who raised her mark, which is something the brand represents and that it’s a source for all the female hustlers.
Asking Michael and Marie for their expectations once the show premieres and a word that can describe their experiences this season, both explain that it’s Interesting and Impacting, and they are thankful for God and everyone from the show and VH1 for making this a great experience and that they are truly blessed to be a part of this project. Michael also mentions that it’s all about evolution, and the evolution for him was much incredible and lovely.
Asking Michael for what the viewers can take away this season, he mentions:
“That no matter what you’ve done in your life, no matter what your parents were, no matter what race, creed, or religion you come from, you can reinvent yourself, you can evolve. It doesn’t have to be a negative to a negative mark. You can turn a negative into a positive. Yeah, what they want to get from me, especially for the young people in the streets, or the young people in the culture, caught up in the game. I want them to know that a man with the last name Blanco, was able to figure it out, to help out, and how I’ve become what I’ve become or becoming what I’ve becoming. That anybody can do it. Any hustler, any person on the street, any mother, any father, any person can do it as long as they have faith and in my perspective, pray to God.”