Cartel Crew, VH1’s new docu-series, follows the lives of eight sons and daughters of drug cartel members. The show examines how the descendants of drug lords cope with their family legacy when their parents have serious cartel connections. Set in Miami, Fla., the cast tries to make names for themselves outside of the drug scene but escaping their past proves to be tricky when they attempt to carve out new futures.
The unofficial leader of this crew is Michael Corleone Blanco, the youngest son of the “Cocaine Godmother” Griselda Blanco. He left the drug life after 33 years following his mother’s assassination, but there’s a lot more to Blanco than meets the eye.
Here’s everything you need to know about Cartel Crew‘s Michael Corleone Blanco:
1. Blanco Took Over the Family Business When He Was Just 12 Years Old
Griselda Blanco had four children, but after his brothers and mother were all incarcerated, Blanco took over the family business at the young age of 12. He carried on the business for 33 years, occasionally serving time himself, before his mother was murdered in 2012.
“I was a child doing big boy things…bribing corrections officers, telling my mom’s henchmen what to do. When my mother was assassinated, I realized I had to change my life,” he told VH1.
2. For the First Time Ever, Cartel Crew Offers Viewers Another Side of Blanco
“I buried 22 members of my family,” Blanco said in a snippet from the VH1 series. With that kind of family history, it’d be difficult for anyone to open their lives up to a reality docu-series, but for Blanco, it seemed like the right time to do so.
“I just decided to expose myself a lot more than I ever have in my life because—I don’t wanna sound cocky—but I think the public demanded it. I think because of the whole hype of the narcos movement and Netflix and the Colombian and Mexican soap operas, the narcos soaps, which I was involved with previously, I guess it was just time. I had to do it. I just follow what the Lord puts in my path,” Blanco told Newsweek.
Blanco can be seen in the series building a new life and family with his girlfriend, but along with his new status of family man comes a new set of problems that will unfold on screen.
3. Blanco’s Girlfriend is Marie Ramirez De Arellano
Ramirez De Arellano, who is also a part of the Cartel Crew show, led her own life of crime before she and Blanco decided to quit the cartel life.
Her father generally kept his business private, and since Arellano started a relationship with Blanco, she eventually lost touch with many of her family members. VH1 has hinted that some of Arellano’s past drama will come to haunt her during the show, and now that she’s entered the world of reality TV, some of her family skeletons might be dragged out of the closet.
“I’ve always been very private with my life because that’s how I was taught. So when [the show] presented itself, yea, I had some thoughts, but then it was like why not? Let me be a part of this and let me expose my life as to how I grew up because there are people like me out there,” Ramirez De Arellano told Newsweek.
Arellano remains committed to her relationship with Blanco and helps him run his business.
4. Blanco Launched His Own Personal Clothing Brand
After leaving the drug scene, Blanco launched his own brand in 2009 called Pure Blanco to prove he could lead a legal business and life. “I had a dream and it took God to make it so,” Blanco told TMZ.
The brand offers men’s and women’s clothing along with accessories like hats, totes, and drinkware, all celebrating the life and legacy of his mother Giselda.
5. Blanco Hopes People Can Understand the Humanity Behind the Cartel Life
“People have to understand that these are human characters. [Our relatives] were cartel bosses and boss ladies, but they were still people with families. They would come home and have a meal with their families. They’d walk the dogs together with their family. That’s part of our culture too, the family essence of us Latin Americans,” Blanco said.
Blanco says the show is not trying to glamorize the narcos lifestyle. He added: “There’s more to the culture than the bad people doing bad things. It’s not like someone woke up in the morning and was like ‘I’m gonna dedicate my life to selling drugs.’ At that time and in that era, people had no choice. They were farmers. They weren’t getting paid. People had to build some type of industry to feed their families.”
READ NEXT: Nicole and Michael Zavala on ‘Cartel Crew’